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Full text of "The herring fisheries of Scotland"





THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



International Fisheries Exhibition 

LONDON, 1883 



THE 



HERRING FISHERIES 



SCOTLAND 



BY 

R. W. DUFF, M.P. 



LONDON 
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED 

INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES EXHIBITION 

AND 13 CHARING CROSS, S.W. 

1883 






International Fisheries Exhibition, 

LONDON, 1883. 



CONFERENCE ON THURSDAY, JUNE 28, 1883. 



DR. LYON PLAYFAIR in the Chair. 



THE HERRING FISHERIES OF 
SCOTLAND. 

IN the paper I am about to read on the Herring Fisheries, 
I do not propose to discuss the natural history of the 
herring, as that is a subject which at these Conferences, 
and elsewhere, has been amply dealt with by far more 
competent authorities. 

I propose to treat the Herring Fisheries from a practical 
point of view, showing the progress of the industry, its 
national importance, and the requirements for the mainten- 
ance and further development of the most productive 
Fishery of the United Kingdom. 

A knowledge of the natural history and habits of the 
herring is doubtless necessary for the proper treatment of 
the subject, even from the point of view I am attempting 
to deal with it, but scientific authorities differ in so 
many important matters concerning the natural history 
and migration of the herring, and so little is positively 
known on the subject, that I think it prudent to avoid 
controversial points of natural history, and to confine 
myself to such practical matters as have come under my 

notice in legislation connected with the Herring Fisheries 

f*/1 ^("V 1 "' ' 
[2] t>4: / / / f B 2 



and to such improvements for their development as a 
nautical experience of twelve years in the Navy suggests. 

Now the treatment of the subject from the point of 
view I have indicated, necessitates a reference to statistics. 
I regret to say that the only reliable figures I can find are 
those relating to the Scotch Herring Fisheries, compiled by 
the Fishery Board for Scotland, and I may here remark 
that I think it is a matter of very great regret that no 
attention has hitherto been paid to the recommendation of 
the Sea Fisheries Commission of 1866, who say, "We think 
it a matter of great importance that Fishery statistics 
should be systematically collected. It is only by such 
means that the constant recurrence of the panics to which 
the Sea Fishery interests have hitherto been subjected can 
be prevented, and that any trustworthy conclusion can be 
arrived at regarding the effects of the modes of fishing 
which are in use. It is probable that the existing Coast 
Guard or Customs organisation may be utilised to collect 
statistics, as is now to some extent the case in Ireland." 

The necessity for fuller information than we possess 
concerning our Sea Fisheries must, I feel sure, be im- 
pressed on us by the able and interesting paper read on 
Tuesday by Professor Brown Goode, as the result of the 
application of improved modes of capture and transit of 
fish in the United States could not have been established 
without the elaborate statistics he was able to put before 
us. 

My general observations may be taken as applying to 
the Herring Fisheries of the United Kingdom, but for the 
reason I have mentioned they are made with particular 
reference to what is undoubtedly our most important Herring 
Fisheries, viz., those of Scotland. 

Dealing, in the first instance, with the progress of the 



Scotch Herring Fisheries I shall only take you back to the 
year 1810, when I find by the statistics of the Scotch 
Fishery Board the number of herrings cured were as 
follows ; 

Barrels cured. Barrels exported; 

1810 90,185 35,848 

1830 326,557 181,654 

1850 ..... 770,698 340,250 

1880 1,473,600 1,009,811 

I may here mention that a barrel contains 32 gallons 
English Wine measure, and it is calculated that each barrel 
contains from 800 to 900 herrings. A barrel of salted 
herrings, taking the average of the different qualities, 
represents herrings to the value of 25^. According to this 
estimate the value of the herrings cured in Scotland in 
1880 represents ; i, 842,000. It is calculated that 20 per 
cent, of the herrings are sold fresh, assuming the fresh 
herring to be only worth as much as the cured, although it 
is probably more valuable, the total quantity taken off the 
Coast of Scotland in 1880 would represent a money value 
of ^2,210,460.* In the valuable paper prepared for this 
Conference by the Duke of Edinburgh, His Royal Highness 
estimates the money value of the fish taken off the Coast 
of these Islands at 7,380,000. It will thus be seen that 
the produce of the Scotch Herring Fisheries bears a large 
proportion to the total value of the fish brought to our 
shores. 

The Herring Fishery of 1880 was the most productive 
ever experienced in Scotland, and it was one which enabled 

* Professor Brown Goode estimates the American Oyster Fisheries 
as producing ^2,799,790 a year, ^589,330 more than the Scotch 
Herring Fisheries, the latter being twice as valuable as any other 
single American Fishery. 



the Scotch curer to export a greater quantity of cured 
herrings to the Continent than either the Norwegians or 
the Dutch, who have long been the. established and worthy 
rivals of the Scotch in the Continental markets. I find, 
from the statistics laid before the Herring Brand Committee 
of 1 88 1, the relative quantity of herrings imported at Stettin 
was : 

Scotland. Norway. Holland. 

1869 to 1874, average of 6 years 569,741 936,105 161,961 
1875 1880 6 629,101 694,502 148,663 

The Norwegian barrel is ^th less than the Scotch ; the 
Dutch barrel is the same size. 

These figures do not, of course, represent the total 
export of each country. A quantity of Dutch herrings 
are sent up the Rhine, and Holland, like Norway 
and Scotland, has a considerable export trade in cured 
herrings with most European countries. The Baltic ports, 
however, take the large proportion of the Scotch and, I 
believe, also of the Norwegian herrings ; a comparison, 
therefore, of the imports at these ports may be taken as 
indicating the relative prosperity of the herring trade of 
the two countries. The demand for cured herrings in the 
interior of Europe may be shown by a statement of Mr. 
Reid, the British Vice-Consul at Stettin. Speaking of 
Scotch herrings imported at Stettin, he said, before the 
Committee of 1881 : "We send them all round, beginning 
with Poland and Warsaw and the territory between Stettin 
and Warsaw, the south of Russia, Gallicia, round by Vienna, 
along to Bavaria, and then as far round until we get to 
Magdeburg, when the imports of Hamburgh come in and 
compete with our offers." 

The progress of the Dutch Herring Fisheries is indicated 
by the statistics in the Exhibition, showing that since 1857 



they have increased in value from 47,908 to 147,788 per 
annum. 

Returning to the Scotch Herring Fisheries, I should 
mention that the herrings cured in 1881 (the last year for 
which I have reliable statistics) showed a decrease as com- 
pared with 1880, of 362,445 barrels, but an increase as com- 
pared with the average of the last ten years of 2 1 per cent. 

Besides producing the large revenue I have referred to 
the Scotch Herring Fisheries give employment to 48,000 
fishermen, 2,400 coopers, 18,854 salters and packers. There 
are 14,800 boats employed, while the value of the boats, 
nets, and lines is estimated at 1,5 00,000. 

An industry conducted on so large a scale must be of 
great value to any country. It is difficult to exaggerate 
its importance to the North of Scotland, where the indus- 
tries are few, and where the soil is frequently sterile and 
unproductive. 

Professor Huxley in his opening address referred to the 
large proportion of food frequently taken from the sea as 
compared with the land. This is well illustrated by the 
relative products of our Northern Counties. 

I once made a calculation, taking my figures from the 
Domesday Book, that the annual rental of the nine 
Northern Counties in Scotland, amounted to 1,299,704, 
being half a million less than the value of the cured herrings 
in Scotland, already referred to, in 1880, and the value of 
herrings cured at three stations, in the same year, on the 
Aberdeenshire Coast, viz. : Aberdeen, Peterhead, and 
Frazerburgh, exceeded the rental of the County of Aber- 
deen (the City of Aberdeen alone excepted) by 69,000. 

The statistics I have given I think prove the national 
importance of the Herring Fisheries, they also show that 
the progress of the Scotch Fisheries, although subject to 



8 

some slight fluctuations, has been rapid and continuous. I 
will now consider the conditions under which they have 
prospered and under which the trade in cured herrings has 
so greatly increased. 

The Herring Fisheries Commission of 1878 reports that 
up to 1829 it had been the policy of the legislation to 
encourage the Herring Fisheries by bounties, but the 
bounties were discontinued, Mr. McCulloch expressing an 
opinion that the fishermen often went to sea to catch the 
bounties and not the fish. 

From 1829 to 1851 the Fisheries were free from Govern- 
ment sources of encouragement and were subject to no 
restrictive regulations of importance. From '51 to '67 a 
series of restrictive measures were passed to regulate the 
Fishery and to prevent the capture of herrings at cer- 
tain seasons and in certain ways. Since 1 867, again, when 
the first of the liberating Acts were passed (due in a great 
degree to the report of the Commission in '62, presided 
over by my right hon. friend in the chair), the Fisheries 
on the coast of Scotland have practically been free and 
subject to no restrictive legislation whatever. 

I find that from 

Average number of barrels 
cured annually. 

1829-51, period of unrestricted fishing . . . 521,880 
1851-68 restrictive legislation . . 657,160 
1868-1881 unrestricted fishing . . . 827,580 

These figures show that the average increase per annum 
in 1 3' years of unrestricted legislation exceeded that of 17 
years of restrictive legislation by 170,420 barrels. 

The two systems were tried for sufficient periods to 
justify the conclusion of the Commissioners of '78, viz. 
" That legislation in past periods has had no appreciable 
effect, and that nothing that man has yet done, and nothing 



man is likely to do, has diminished or is likely to diminish 
the general stock of herrings in the sea." 

If further evidence be needed in support of a policy of 
unrestricted fishing, it appears to me to be supplied by a 
consideration of the insignificant proportion of herrings 
captured by man as compared with that effected by 
agencies over which man has no control. I need say little 
on this point, as it was amply dealt with by Professor 
Huxley in his opening address, but in support of his view 
I may quote a short extract from the Report of Messrs. 
Buckland, Walpole and Young in '78. They say : " The 
Scotch gannets must consume 37 per cent, more herrings 
than all the Scotch fishermen catch in their nets." 

The Commissioners add : "Whales, porpoises, seals, 
coal fish, predaceous fish of every description are constantly 
feeding on them (the herrings) from the moment of their 
birth. The shoals of herrings in the ocean are always 
accompanied by flocks of gulls and other sea birds, which 
are continuously preying upon them, and it seems there- 
fore no exaggeration to conclude that man does not 
destroy one herring for every fifty destroyed by other 
enemies." In quoting these opinions I am aware that I 
am only repeating what has frequently been urged before 
by those who have advocated unrestricted freedom of 
fishing. My apology for repetition is that I am often being 
told that " the sea is over-fished," and am frequently ap- 
pealed to to use my influence in Parliament in support of 
various restrictive measures for regulating our Sea Fisheries, 
and the most effective reply to these statements and de- 
mands appears to me to be the conclusions arrived at by 
competent Commissioners, who have made exhaustive 
inquiries into the subject. Only the other day I read a 
most interesting book which I purchased in the Exhibition, 



IO 

entitled "The Herring, and the Herring Fisheries," by Mr. 
de Caux. Mr. de Caux is quite at one with me as to the 
impracticability of establishing a close time, but he proposes 
to re-enact the provision contained in the 48th of Geo. III., 
Chap, no, regulating the size of the mesh of the herring 
net. Now this question is very exhaustively dealt with by 
the Commissioners of 1878. They point out that a law 
regulating the mesh could not be enforced, except by an 
International Convention, beyond three miles from the 
shore. A new Convention has just been concluded with 
Foreign Powers, and a Bill is now before Parliament to 
give effect to it, but the Convention declined to entertain 
the question of the mesh. 

Another objection to reducing the size of the mesh is 
that such a regulation would interfere with the sprat and 
garvie fishing. I may here assume, without raising any 
controversial point, that sprats and garvies are not young 
herrings. Sprats and garvies supply a considerable amount 
of wholesome food, and it would be unfair to prohibit these 
fishings on the mere chance of increasing the number of 
herrings. 

A further objection is that the cotton nets, now in 
universal use, are subject to shrinking at every fresh bark- 
ing, and fishermen might thus unwittingly be led into an 
infraction of the law. These difficulties to regulating the 
size of the mesh, combined with the experience we have 
had of legislative enactments in Scotland, cause me to 
differ on this point with Mr. de Caux. 

The Act which he desires to pass for the English 
fisheries is still nominally in force in Scotland, but for the 
reasons I have stated it has been found to be inoperative, 
and the newly organized Scotch Fishery Board in their 
first report, issued last month, recommend the repeal of the 



section that Mr. de Caux wishes to enforce. They say: 
" In many cases a net below the standard size is in use ; 
but the fishermen are finding that the small mesh is not 
profitable, as only the nose of the larger fish gets into it, 
and unless they get past the gills they are not effectually 
caught. The matter does not seem to be one suitable for 
public regulation, and had much better be left to the 
fishermen themselves. We therefore recommend the repeal 
of Sec. 12 of 48 Geo. III., Chap, no." 

Legislators received some very wholesome advice from 
Professor Huxley at the close of his opening address, 
when he said : " I think that the man who has made the 
unnecessary law deserves a heavier punishment than the 
man who breaks it." Now, although some of the laws we 
have passed to regulate our Herring Fisheries have been 
harmless, except for bringing the law into contempt, yet 
this cannot be said of all our restrictive legislation, as the 
Sea Fisheries Commission of '66 describes the effect of the 
close time established by Parliament on the West Coast of 
Scotland, as "reducing the population of some of the 
Western Islands to misery and starvation, while abundant 
food was lying in front of their doors, by preventing them 
taking herrings." Surely Parliament can be better em- 
ployed than by mischievous legislation, producing such 
vexatious results. 

The statistics I have quoted indicate the general pros- 
perity of the Scotch Herring Fisheries, but this general 
conclusion must be accepted with some qualification. The 
Commissioners of 1878 remark that the so-called prosperity 
is almost entirely due to the extraordinary development of 
the fisheries off the Aberdeenshire coast ; and if the takes 
between Fraserburgh and Montrose be deducted, the con- 
dition of the other fisheries will be found to be much less 



12 

satisfactory. Commenting on this, the Commissioners 
observe that the development of the fisheries on the Aber- 
deenshire coast has led to the neglect of fisheries at other 
places, the younger and more vigorous fishermen being 
attracted to the most productive fishing ground. The de- 
struction of the Wick Harbour has caused many of the 
boats from that district to fish off the Aberdeenshire coast. 
These causes have contributed to the falling off of the 
fisheries elsewhere. But allowing for these considerations, 
the Commissioners express an opinion that the vast amount 
of netting now in use may have scared the fish from narrow 
waters. They estimate the nets used by the Scotch herring 
fishers to be sufficient to reach in a continuous line for 
12,000 miles, to cover an area of 70 square miles, and to 
be sufficient to go three times across the Atlantic from 
Liverpool to New York. The substitution of cotton for 
hemp nets may be said to have revolutionised the fishery. 
A boat that used to carry 960 yards of netting, now carries 
3,300 yards. The nets used to be 6 or 7 yards, they are 
now 10 yards deep. They used to present a catching 
surface of 3,000 square yards, they now present a catching 
surface of 33,000 square yards ; without increasing the 
weight of the nets to be worked, each boat has increased 
its catching power fivefold. This vast extent of netting 
certainly warrants the possibility assumed by the Commis- 
sioners, that the nets may have scared the herrings from 
narrow waters, but looking to the general results, they 
decline to recommend any restrictive measures, entertaining 
an opinion that the vast amount of netting has no effect in 
diminishing the stock of herrings in the sea ; a conclusion 
amply justified by the enormous take of herrings in 1880, 
two years after the Commissioners' Report. Since then 
herrings have also returned in greater number to some of 



13 

our inshore fisheries. Referring to the west coast, the 
Fishery Board Report for 1881 mentions that "The best 
fishing was got in Loch Hourn, where an immense body of 
herrings remained all the season." It is reasonable to 
assume that the herrings returned on their own account, 
and that their movements were made in "blissful igno- 
rance" that the British Parliament had abolished the 
measures for their special protection. 

Another feature of the Scotch Herring Fisheries is the 
large and continually increasing takes of late years off the 
Shetland Islands. In 1879 the Shetlanders only cured 
8,000 barrels ; in 1880 the number had increased to 48,000 ; 
in 1 88 1 to 59,586, and in 1882 to 134,000 barrels. 

In his opening address Professor Huxley remarked that 
considering the antiquity and importance of the fishing 
industry " it is singular that it can hardly be said to have 
kept pace with the rapid improvement of almost every other 
branch of industrial occupation in modern times. If we 
contrast the progress of fishery with that of agriculture, 
for example, the comparison is not favourable to fishery," 
and he afterwards observed, "But we are still very far 
behind scientific agriculture ; and as to the application of 
machinery and of steam to fishery operations, it may be 
said that in this country a commencement has been made, 
but hardly more." 

I am not going to question the general accuracy of Pro- 
fessor Huxley's conclusions, yet I think that I have shown 
that our Scotch Herring Fisheries have not been altogether 
standing still. The increase in our take of herrings has 
not been entirely due to the larger amount of capital in- 
vested in the trade, nor to the enterprise of our fishermen 
in going further to sea in pursuit of their calling ; though 
no doubt these two causes have largely contributed in 



raising our fishery to its present importance. But of late 
years the boats have been very much improved, and the 
cotton nets, as I have already said, worked almost a revo- 
lution in the Herring Fisheries. The effect of these combined 
causes, better boats and better nets, will at once be appre- 
ciated by a reference to a table compiled by Mr. Francis 
Day (from the Scotch Fishery Board statistics), and pub- 
lished in his notes, giving an account of his cruise in the 
Triton last year. 

Mr. Day gives the proportion of barrels of cured herrings 
to the fishermen employed since 1825 : 

Fishermen. Barrels. 

5 years, 1825-30 i 8 

5 1854-59 i 14 

5 1876-81 I 22 

One fisherman now produces nearly three times what he 
did fifty years ago, and the result of his labour will bear 
favourable comparison with the increased production of the 
agricultural labourers during that period. I am, however, 
quite at one with Professor Huxley in believing that our 
sea fisheries are capable of far greater development, par- 
ticularly by the application of steam power. On this point, 
I may be permitted to quote some opinions I expressed in 
a lecture I gave about two years ago, when I advocated 
the application of steam power as a means of developing 
our Herring Fisheries. 

What I claim for steam is : 

1. A saving of life by increasing the boat's chance of 

making a port of safety in bad weather. 

2. A certainty of reaching and returning from the 

fishing ground in all ordinary weather, indepen- 
dent of tides, calms, and head winds. 

3. The comparative punctuality thus acquired by 



steam would enable arrangements to be made 
by railways to run fish trains, and so enhance 
the value of the cargo by the difference between 
the price of fresh and cured fish. 

In the foregoing remarks I have assumed that each boat 
should be propelled by steam power an auxiliary screw 
would be the most suitable. Steam might also be applied 
to a winch, and would save a deal of manual labour in 
hauling the nets. Steam tugs, to tow the boats, have been 
tried with only a moderate degree of success. As a means of 
saving life by getting the boats into harbour in a storm they 
are not to be depended on, and at any time might miss the 
boats during a fog or in a dark night. Steam carriers do 
not appear to me to be adapted for the herring fisheries. 
The transhipment of herrings from the present boats to 
carriers, except in very smooth water, would be attended 
with great difficulty. How steam can be best utilised in 
developing our herring fisheries is a question I should be 
very glad to hear discussed at this Conference. It is one 
of great and growing importance. 

Our first-class boats, annually in some parts of Scotland 
going further to sea, are too heavy to be propelled by 
oars ; consequently, in calms or when a tide has to be en- 
countered, the cargo of herrings is frequently spoilt before 
it reaches the shore. The regulations of the new Fishery 
Board are framed to facilitate the curing of herrings at sea, 
but our present boats are not large enough to carry barrels 
and salt enough for this purpose. Off the coast ofMontrose, 
where I believe our boats often go seventy to eighty miles 
to sea, I am told that it is now the practice to carry salt 
enough to sprinkle over the herrings, and thus save them 
for four or five days ; and I understand that herrings 
treated in this method, termed " salting in bulk," are but 



i6 

slightly depreciated in the market ; but herrings so cured 
would not be entitled to receive the Government " brand " 
or mark, the regulation for this purpose requiring that the 
fish should be cured within twenty-four hours of being 
caught. 

The Government brand, indicating a degree of quality, 
was first established in 1808, but nothing was charged for 
it till 1859, when the Government imposed a fee of ^d. a 
barrel to defray the cost of the branding establishment. 
The amount collected from the fees exceeds the cost of 
branding by about 3,000 a year, and this surplus is now 
paid to the Scotch Fishery Board for harbour improve- 
ments and other objects to develop the fisheries. 

The policy of a Government brand has been the subject 
of frequent contention among the Scotch curers. The 
matter was fully discussed so recently before a parliamen- 
tary Committee, of which I had the honour to be chairman, 
that I do not propose to detain you to-day by reopening 
the question. 

The Committee referred to reported in 1881 in favour of 
the retention of the brand. It was contended by its oppo- 
nents that the brand had lost its value, but the Committee 
considered " the continental merchants would not continue 
to demand branded herrings, and the home curer would 
not voluntarily pay 4^. a barrel for a trade mark which 
had ceased to be a guarantee of quality." I should mention 
that the brand is not compulsory ; and if any of the Scotch 
curers consider they can establish a superior trade mark 
and some of them are of opinion that they can they are 
at perfect liberty to do so. 

The Dutch cure most of their herrings at sea, on board 
much larger vessels than are generally used by our fisher- 
men, but I should regret to see the adoption of a system 



here by which the fish offal was all lost, as it forms an ex- 
cellent manure, which, by a process shown in the Exhi- 
bition, might, I believe, be made still more valuable. The 
result of the experience obtained at the Menhaden Fishery, 
detailed by Professor Brown Goode, is instructive, as 
showing the extent to which fish offal may be advan- 
tageously utilised.* 

The use of larger boats necessitates increased harbour 
accommodation, and this is at present the great want of 
fishermen all along our coast. How it is to be supplied is 
too large a question for me fully to discuss in this Paper. 
There can be no doubt, especially after the experience we 
have had in this Exhibition, of the demand on the part of 
the public for an abundant supply of cheap fresh fish ; I 
am not, however, aware to what extent the community is 
willing to be taxed for the construction of better harbours 
to facilitate a supply of food so universally appreciated, but 
without better harbours I believe it will be impossible for 

1 "In 1878 the Menhaden Oil and Guano Industry employed capital 
to the amount of 2,350,000 dollars, 3,337 men, 64 steamers, 279 sailing 
vessels, and consumed 777,000,000 of fish. There were 56 factories, 
which produced 1,392,644 gallons of oil, valued at 450,000 dollars, and 
55,154 tons of crude guano, valued at 600,000 dollars ; this was a poor 
year. In 1874, the number of gallons produced was 3,373,000; in 
1875, 2,681,000 ; in 1876, 2,992,000 ; in 1877, 2,427,000. In 1878, the 
total value of manufactured products was 1,050,000 dollars ; in 1874, 
this was 1,809,000 dollars ; in 1875, 1,582,000 dollars ; in 1876, 
1,671,000 dollars ; in 1877, 1,608,000 dollars ; it should be stated that 
in these reports only four-fifths of the whole number of factories are 
included. The refuse of the oil factory supplies a material of much 
value for manures. As a base for nitrogen it enters largely into the 
composition of most of the manufactured fertilisers. The amount of 
nitrogen derived from this source in 1875 was estimated to be 
equivalent to that contained in 60,000,000 Ibs. of Peruvian guano, the 
gold value of which would not have been far from 1,920,000 dollars." 
Professor Brown Cootie's Paper at International Fisheries Exhibition. 

[2] C 



i8 

the fishermen to meet the growing demands of an increasing 
population. State aid towards harbour improvement has 
hitherto been most successful, when given in the form of 
grants to supplement local efforts, or by loan at a low rate 
of interest. Under this system, which I should like to see 
extended, such harbours, and they are miserably inade- 
quate, as are available for our Herring Fisheries, have been 
mainly constructed. In Scotland generally, the fishermen 
have shown a commendable spirit of self-reliance by com- 
bining together to raise funds for the improvement of their 
harbours. I have often been astonished at the efforts they 
have made to enable them to participate in the small grant 
annually given to the Scotch Fishery Board. 

I may mention one instance that lately came under my 
notice. About two years ago I was visiting a small fishing 
hamlet on the coast of Banffshire. I was told that the 
fishermen were most anxious to raise a sum of 3,000, to 
enable them, by the assistance of the Fishery Board, to 
improve their harbour. I remarked to a friend who was 
with me, that there seemed to be nobody but fishermen in 
the place, and I expressed some doubt as to their ability 
to raise the required sum. His reply entirely confirmed 
my estimate of the inhabitants, for he said, " No one here 
puts on a black coat on the Sabbath except the minister 
and the general merchant." Yet the amount required, with 
some assistance from the landlord, was duly raised, and by 
the aid of the Fishery Board a harbour, which will be of 
great advantage to the district, is now being constructed. 
I mention this circumstance because I think the willingness 
of the fishermen to pay, so far as in their power, for im- 
proved harbours, is a consideration which should be taken 
into account in any general scheme for harbour construc- 
tion, and also because I think the spirit of self-reliance 



19 

evinced by the fishermen entitles them to the sympathy and 
to the support of the public. 

I should like to say a word before concluding this Paper 
on the distribution of the vast number of herrings taken off 
the Scotch coast The Duke of Edinburgh estimates the 
value of the fish taken by the trawlers off the coast of the 
United Kingdom at .2,581,000, or about 300,000 more 
than the value of the herrings taken off the Scotch coast. 
Cured herrings, representing 1,006,462, were exported in 
1 88 1, the value of the other fish exported that year from 
all parts of the kingdom was only 398,048. It will thus 
be seen that the distribution of the herrings is very dif- 
ferent from that of other fish. I believe a far greater pro- 
portion of the Scotch herrings, especially those caught on 
the west coast, would be consumed as fresh fish at home, if 
greater facilities were given by the railways for their con- 
veyances.* 

The evidence given before the Railway Committee last 
year, fully exposes the high rates frequently imposed by 

1 " Still more important has been the general adoption of scientific 
methods of preparation and transportation. Great freezing houses 
have been built on the Great Lakes, on the Pacific coast, and in the 
cities of the East, and refrigerator cars are running upon all the trunk 
lines of railway. Columbia salmon, lake white-fish, cod, bass, Spanish 
mackerel, and other choice fishes are frozen stiff and packed up in 
heaps like cordwood, and can be had at any season of the year. 
Refrigerator cars cany unfrozen fish from sea and lake inland. Smelts 
and trout, packed in snow in the north, are received in New York by 
the cartload daily throughout the winter. Halibut are brought from 
the distant oceanic banks in refrigerators built in the holds of the 
vessels, and 12,000,000 to 14,000,000 pounds are distributed, packed in 
ice, to the cities of the interior. Baltimore, from September to April, 
sends special trains laden with oysters, daily, into the west, and 
Chesapeake oysters are food for all, not luxuries, even beyond the 
Mississippi." Professor Brown Goode. 

[2] C2 



2C 

the railway companies for the carriage of fresh fish. A 
less grasping policy would, I believe, be more remunerative 
to the railways and certainly more advantageous to the 
public. But this is a subject which will be more fully 
discussed in a subsequent Paper by his Excellency Mr. 
Spencer Walpole. 

The conclusion I arrive at is, that the requirements for 
the further development of our herring fisheries are : 

1. Better harbour accommodation. 

2. The application of steam power. 

3. Increased railway facilities, and lower railway 

rates for the distribution of fresh fish. 

As my right hon. friend Mr. Shaw-Lefevre, M.P., is to 
read a Paper on the " Principles of Legislation in connection 
with Sea Fisheries," I have not alluded to the laws re- 
lating to trawling, and other matters for regulating our 
sea fisheries ; I have only touched on a subject, which I am 
sure will be more ably dealt with by my right hon. friend, 
to such an .extent as I deemed necessary to make the con- 
dition of our herring fisheries intelligible before an Inter- 
national Conference. 

Regarding the objects in the Exhibition calculated to 
develope the herring fisheries, there are models of boats of 
the most approved build propelled both by steam and sail, 
nets of the most improved pattern, conspicuously among 
them being the American purse-seine net, admirably 
adapted, in the opinion of some competent practical men 
with whom I inspected it, for the herring fisheries ; there 
are refrigerating vans, and barrels made by steam ma- 
chinery. 

But more important to my mind than the modern ap- 
pliances I have referred to for the capture and transit of 
fish are the conclusions arrived at by the competent autho- 



21 

rities who have addressed us at the Conference, viz., that 
the stock of herrings in the sea, so far as man is concerned, 
is practically inexhaustible. The opinion expressed by the 
Playfair Commission in '62, by the Sea Fisheries Commis- 
sion in '66, by the Herring Fisheries Commission in '78, is 
confirmed by the exhaustive enquiries of the Duke of 
Edinburgh, and by the ripe experience of Professor Huxley. 
Although we cannot account for the mysterious movements 
of the herring, causing the fluctuation which characterise 
our fishery, it is at least some consolation to know on the 
high authorities I have mentioned, that although advancing 
civilisation may pollute our rivers and destroy our salmon, 
we are still likely to enjoy our herring, as the inventive 
genius of the age has failed to discover any means of de- 
priving us of an ample supply of the most abundant and 
nutritious food which the bounty of the ocean yields to the 
labour of man. 



DISCUSSION. 

The CHAIRMAN said his honourable friend had treated 
the subject as he had expected he would from the in- 
telligent action which he had taken in Parliament in 
promoting regulating but not restrictive laws, with regard 
to sea fisheries. The only reason he presumed why he 
found himself in the Chair on this occasion was, that in 
1862 he was Chairman of the Royal Commission for 
examining into the herring-fisheries of the British coast. 
Why he, a Chemical Professor, should be found in that 
position, he could never fully understand, especially as 
there was on the Commission a man of European eminence, 
and of the greatest authority on fisheries : though they both 



were in the same galley, and he sat at the helm, it was the 
vigorous power of his friend, Professor Huxley, who not 
only impelled the bark, but also directed it. That Com- 
mission established one or two facts which certainly had 
been of the greatest importance to our great fisheries, viz., 
that restrictive laws framed by man in ignorance of the laws 
of Nature, were excessively destructive to the interests of 
fishermen instead of being favourable to them. When 
they first began to examine this subject, they found 
different laws prevailing on the east coast of Scotland to 
those which prevailed on the west. On the east coast 
there were no restrictive laws, and fishermen were en- 
couraged to catch fish, even full fish containing ova, in 
order to be cured. Each of these fish had on an aver- 
age 50,000 eggs, and the enormous number that were 
taken in this state would seem to indicate a process of 
extermination ; but the fisheries of the east coast, without 
restrictive laws, increased, and did not diminish. When 
they went to the west coast of Scotland, however, in the 
inner waters of the Firth of Clyde, they found restrictive 
laws prevailing. For several months no herrings were 
allowed to be taken, there being a close time for herrings 
for the purpose of protecting them. As they went further 
into the open waters at the Firth of Forth and Clyde along 
the islands up to near the Highlands, those restrictive laws 
still prevailed ; but there was a relaxation as to the period 
when the close time should end. A very curious result 
was made apparent, and a most unexpected one. At the 
periods of close time, the herrings came to the banks to 
spawn, and were followed by their natural enemies in great 
number, among which he might chiefly allude to the cod 
and the ling, which consumed them in great numbers. 
There were innumerable fish which lived upon the young 



23 

fry and the full-grown herring ; the cod, ling, dog-fish, and 
conger, fed on the full-grown herring ; while the flat-fish and 
crabs eat the spawn, and there were innumerable other 
fish which eat herring-fry. At the time when they found 
them on their spawning banks, these fish had an appetite 
for nothing else but herring, and this result followed, that 
the fishermen of cod and ling could catch nothing, because 
they would only take herring bait at the time, and the close 
time prevented the fishermen getting any herring-bait for 
catching this white fish. The consequence was, that the 
laws invented for the protection of the herring became laws 
for their destruction, because their natural enemies, which 
could not be caught because of the want of bait, multiplied 
exceedingly, and devoured the very herrings which the laws 
intended to protect. This was so to an enormous extent, as 
a little calculation would show. The Commission frequently 
opened cod and ling and examined the contents of their 
stomachs, in which they frequently found seven to ten 
herrings, which they had not begun to digest ; but allowing 
a diet of two herrings a day to a cod, and allowing him to 
live seven months in one year, fifty cod would catch as 
many herrings as one fisherman could catch in a year. 
Now there was no census of how many cod and ling 
existed, but there was a census of how many cod and 
ling were caught ; there were caught and salted last year 
on the coast of Scotland, 115,513 cwt. of cod and ling. 
Now about thirty fish went to a hundredweight, and from a 
little calculation it would follow, that if the cod and ling* 
which were salted had lived in the sea, and had not been 
taken, they would have caught as many herrings as 
69,000 fishermen. Now that was more than 20,000 beyond 
all the fishermen who existed on those coasts, and, 
therefore, those laws which protected the enemies of 



24- 

herrings, kept them in the sea, and produced this enor- 
mous loss. That was one of the results of the Commis- 
sion ; for the laws intended for the protection of herring 
really multiplied the natural enemies of the herrings 
enormously, and thus destroyed them infinitely more than 
they were protected. The action of that was this, that 
under the protection of these laws, the fish which preyed 
on the herring increased and multiplied exceedingly, so that 
they had a very good time ; but the poor fishermen of those 
coasts had a very bad time, because they could not 
catch the fish upon which their subsistence depended. 
The consequence was, that they found these fishermen dis- 
obeying the law, when it could not be enforced, or when 
the law was obeyed, it led to starvation, and they were 
obliged to emigrate. That was the result of interfering with 
the laws of nature by an indiscreet law passed by Parlia- 
ment. The lesson which might be drawn from the interest- 
ing paper just read, was that though Parliament might 
make laws for keeping order and safety amongst fisher- 
men ; that the balance of nature which prevailed in the 
sea should be left alone, because the balance of animal 
life depended upon unknown factors. The herrings had 
for their food small crustaceae, sometimes microscopic, but 
at other times little shrimps and sand-eels. They en- 
joyed that food, and when it existed on the coast, mul~ 
tiplied largely ; but whilst they lived on these things, there 
were other fish which were living on them, and which 
had the greatest love for the herrings. They were the 
conger, the dog-fish, the cod, and the ling, which slew their 
millions, and there were birds, such as gulls and gannets, 
which also destroyed multitudes, and then there were the 
porpoises and grampuses, which ate up whole shoals of 
herrings. This was the balance of life, one balancing the 



25 

other, and the more it was interfered with, the more mis- 
chief resulted. Sometimes there was a cry for protective 
laws, because the herring fishery varied as any other industry 
varied according to circumstances. They did not always 
know why it varied. For instance, Mr. Duff spoke about 
the varying character of the herring, and a very capricious 
fish was the usual term fishermen applied to it. But the 
term caprice was merely the mode of concealing our 
ignorance of its habits. If we knew its habits, and those 
of its enemies, it would probably be found there was no 
caprice in the matter. Sometimes herrings came in shoals 
to particular parts of the coast, and other times they aban- 
doned them for many years. The reason of that was not 
known. It might be, for instance, that something had 
happened to the small crustaceae and the sand-eels on the 
particular part of the coast, and the herrings did not find 
their natural food ; it might be that the enemies of the her- 
rings had multiplied very much, and devoured in too large 
quantities their own subsistences. Then the herrings de- 
creased, but ultimately they increased again, because their 
enemies having fed too largely upon them, they decreased 
in number, and then the herrings had their turn again, 
and so there was a continual scarcity and plenty in the 
markets, sometimes prosperity and sometimes a panic, and 
the herring in its action assisted in producing these cases of 
prosperity and panic, just as if they were Lancashire manu- 
facturers. It was needless, therefore, to make laws to try 
and prevent man, who was such a very small factor in the* 
result, catching herrings when there were, all round the 
herrings, enemies creating havoc infinitely greater. If any 
lesson could be learnt from the interesting paper they had 
listened to, it was that it would be much better to leave 
these things to the laws of nature, which were far more 



26 

wise in this respect than any laws which were likely to be 
passed by Parliament. 

Dr. FRANCIS DAY did not know whether it was worth 
while making many remarks on the question if they were 
told that all legislation was useless, and that whoever said 
anything on the other side appeared to be one who did not 
understand the subject upon which he was speaking ; but he 
thought they were met for the purpose of discussion, to 
hear both sides of the question, and not to jump to con- 
clusions at the commencement before they had heard what 
the other side had to say. Personally as yet he gave no 
opinion on one side or the other, but he did think those 
who had opinions to offer should be allowed to give them 
without being told that those who made laws ought to 
suffer from them themselves instead of the unfortunate fisher- 
men to whom those laws would apply. He could not help 
thinking that gentlemen who held those views, though they 
might be very fit for Legislatures, were quite unfit to legis- 
late on fishing matters. It was only necessary to look at 
the fresh-water fisheries to see how they had been destroyed 
for want of legislation, and what had been done by making 
use of legislation. He would, however, pass on to the sub- 
ject more immediately before them ; he had no intention of 
making any remarks when he entered the hall, but he had 
been at two or three conferences when no one had risen to 
say anything, except the proposers and seconders of 
resolutions, and he thought it was time that a few 
observations should be made on the different sides of these 
important questions. They must all feel exceedingly 
obliged to Mr. Duff for the figures he had given, but when 
he left out the natural history of the subject it appeared to 
him that he left out the most important portion of the 
question with regard to herring and other fisheries. There 



27 

were three different classes of fish from the sea which were 
mostly made use of by man. There were the herrings, the 
gregarious form, which were mostly found near the surface, 
and with them might be classed the mackerel and the 
pilchard, and then there were the deep sea form of the cod 
and ling which had been mentioned, the devourers of the 
herring, and also the ground fishes, such as the turbot, sole, 
&c. Some people talked about the balance of nature, and 
said no law should be passed with reference to these 
fisheries, but the question was whether by passing no laws 
they were not destroying the balance of nature. They per- 
mitted the cod and these voracious fishes to be captured in 
large quantities, and these were the very fish which, as the 
Chairman informed them, ate the herring. Might it not be 
that if, as many fishermen told them (though it was denied 
on some hands, as far as he had seen, it appeared to be 
correct), the inshore fisheries were decreasing, the quantity 
of cod was decreased, and so the fish were destroyed which 
were catching the herring, and thus the herring might be 
increasing in consequence of the destruction of the cod 
fisheries. Then they were told that in consequence of the 
legislation the poor fishermen suffered on one portion of 
the coast of Scotland and not on the other, but if they 
turned to the blue book issued by Messrs. Buckland and 
Walpole it would be found that although these regulations 
were in existence they were never carried out ; that no 
regulations ever passed by man had ever had any effect 
on the herring fisheries. Then they were told that the 
herrings were inexhaustible. They found the herrings 
migrating from place to place, and in so doing they dis- 
appeared entirely from one country and appeared in 
another. If the cod fisheries were destroyed and the 
herrings migrated, where would the fisheries be ? He had 



28 

seen the oil sardine on the western coast of India for years, 
and all of a sudden it would entirely disappear and not 
appear again for several seasons. With regard to the size 
of the mesh he would not attempt to offer any opinion, 
seeing there were so many gentlemen present more 
competent to speak upon it. It appeared to him that if 
the herrings were driven out from the inshore fisheries into 
the open sea there was a necessity for larger boats, and if 
this resulted, and there was not an increase of harbour 
accommodation, what were the fishermen to do on the 
eastern coast of Scotland ? They must be driven down to 
the ports or beach their boats, which often caused loss of 
life. He thought, instead of taking all the facts given in 
these Royal Commissions for granted, they ought to have 
them supplemented by further investigation. If investiga- 
tions were carried on in the way in which they were in the 
United States, so as to ascertain whether any class of 
fish were increasing or decreasing, what they fed upon, 
and what it was which caused their food to increase or 
decrease, or to migrate, they would then be in a better 
position to judge as to the necessity for legislation on this 
subject. 

Mr. BRADY (Inspector of Irish Fisheries) said he had 
listened with great pleasure to the excellent address which 
had been given, and it was certainly a question of very deep 
interest whether, as we went on increasing our means of 
capture, and increasing the amount of food brought up from 
the ocean, we might not be considered to be killing the 
goose which laid the golden eggs. He had had the honour 
on two occasions of mentioning certain facts connected with 
two bays in Ireland, from which he drew certain con- 
clusions, which, of course, might be incorrect, but those 
conclusions were that all restrictions on deep-sea fishing 



2 9 

were mischievous, and tended to no good. If he understood 
aright the observations of the last speaker, he said the 
regulations in Scotland had no effect on the herring fishery. 
There had been restrictions, and the Chairman had made 
some very important observations with regard to them. 
Dr. Day said they were not enforced, and, therefore, they 
had no effect. Well, if they found the herring fisheries of 
Scotland increased in the vast proportions that they had 
done for so many years, it was the strongest argument that 
the restrictions placed upon them by the Legislature were 
of no avail, and did no good. How far, if they had been 
enforced, they might have done any good, of course no one 
could say. It was most important that science should be 
brought to bear on this question, and should be aided by 
practical experience. When they had arrived at the time 
when scientific men could say that certain restrictions should 
be placed on deep-sea fishing, then it would be time for the 
Legislature to step in, but until that day came it would 
be only mischievous to cripple the industry of a country by 
imposing such restrictions in the absence of that knowledge 
which they all admitted they were deficient in. The great 
deficiency of statistics had been referred to especially with 
regard to Ireland, and he regretted very much to say that 
the statistics of fisheries in Ireland were miserably defective. 
It was very important that those statistics should be col- 
lected, so that they might ascertain whether the improved 
modes of capture and the greater distance to which the 
boats went were injurious to the fisheries. Nothing was 
more interesting to him than something which he had seen 
in the Exhibition, which might develop the fisheries to an 
enormous extent. He alluded to a mode adopted on the 
great lakes in Canada, by which a steamer, while moving 
on, kept paying out one net, and at the same time hauled 



30 

in another. If that could be brought into operation in our 
sea fisheries it would lead to very important changes. 

Mr. McLELAN (Canada), said that some of the fishing 
grounds on the great lakes in Canada, where the mode of 
fishing just referred to was adopted, were 400 or 500 miles 
long ; and the reports coming from fishermen were, that 
unrestricted fishing diminished the number of fish even in 
these large lakes. Application had been made to him 
repeatedly to permit a smaller sized mesh of net to be used ; 
but in consequence of the testimony which had come to 
him from all fishermen, he had refused to allow it. He 
considered it was a very important question whether sea 
fisheries were exhaustible or not ; probably the most im- 
portant question which could be discussed. Previous to 
coming to England, all the testimony he had received from 
the fishermen of Canada, both shore fishermen and sea 
fishermen, was, that on the great lakes, fisheries that had 
hitherto been very profitable, were being exhausted from 
over-fishing, and from all he could hear from fishermen 
all round the coast, he had come to the conclusion that 
it was possible to exhaust the fisheries of the Dominion 
of Canada. Mr. Duff had told them that with regard 
to herrings they first had an open season, in which 
an average of 500,000 barrels of fish were taken every 
year ; then for some seventeen years they had a close 
season, in which there was an average of 600,000 
barrels, and then it was made open again, and the 
average rose to 800,000 barrels. The inference from 
all this was, that it was better to have free fishing ; 
but at the same time the honourable gentleman stated 
that the appliances for catching the herrings had been 
multiplied fivefold, and it occurred to him that if that 
were so, they ought to have had three million barrels 



of fish instead of 800,000, seeing the appliances had so 
largely increased. Then the question arose, with these 
multiplied appliances and the improved boats which had 
been referred to, was it not the fact that they went further 
to sea, and were sweeping over a larger area and not 
getting a proportionate return of fish ? This was a point 
on which the testimony of practical men was needed. 
Science told them that fish produced so many eggs, and 
multiplied very fast ; that one fish fed on another ; and 
that the balance of nature ought to be preserved ; that 
the little fish had larger fish to eat them ; the larger fish 
had bigger ones to bite them, and so on ad infinitum ; 
but they left out of sight a certain kind of fish which 
preyed on the others, but were not fit for food and there- 
fore were not caught. To keep up the balance of nature 
they ought to fit out expeditions to destroy those fish 
which preyed on the edible fish ; but if they left them to 
multiply and prey on the others, and at the same time 
man went in with his fivefold machines to catch the 
herrings, the result would be, according to the testimony 
of Canada, that the fishing grounds would be gradually 
destroyed. It would simplify things on the other side of 
the Atlantic very much if it could be settled, by the testi- 
mony of fishermen and the investigations of science, that 
the sea fisheries were inexhaustible ; then all they would 
have to do would be to improve their appliances for catch- 
ing. Mr. Duff had referred to the want of harbours round 
the coast, and if he might be permitted to give the ex- 
perience of a young country, he might say that they had 
felt the same want in Canada ; but there the Government 
took hold of the matter, considering it of great public 
importance that the fisheries of the country should be 
protected, and that suitable harbours should be provided. 
Year by year large grants were made for the erection of 



3* 

suitable breakwaters and harbours of refuge, with the 
most beneficial results. He did not pretend to argue the 
advisability of this system in a country where it was the 
State policy for every industry to be left to its own re- 
sources ; but in Canada, which might be considered more 
protective of native industries, that course had been 
pursued, and fishermen had been protected not only by 
the providing of harbours, but by the distribution yearly 
of a quarter of a million of dollars in the encouragement 
of fisheries. 

Mr. RONALD MACDONALD (Aberdeen), said the views 
of gentlemen from England, Ireland, and Canada had 
been heard, and as he came from Scotland, where the 
herring fisheries were more important than in either 
England or Ireland, he hoped he might be allowed to 
make a few remarks. He knew a number of Mr. Duffs 
constituents, who appreciated very much the great intelli- 
gence and practical interest he had taken in the develop- 
ment of fishing in Scotland, and he had listened with 
great pleasure to the comprehensive paper which he had 
read ; but it could not be expected that everything which 
might be supposed to be even of essential importance to 
the subject, could be compressed into so short a paper. 
On one point there seemed to be a little want of unanimity, 
namely, the uselessness or otherwise of legislation with 
regard to fisheries. The views on this subject came from 
two different quarters, and they differed according to the 
quarter from which they came. Some years ago he had 
the opportunity of being present when evidence was laid 
before the Commission which had been referred to, when 
Mr. Buckland, Mr. Walpole, and Mr. Young went round on 
the east and west coasts of Scotland, and he found that all 
those who were interested in the inshore fishing demanded 
that there should be restrictions, while those who depended 



33 

on the system of fishing which was now so successful, 
namely, employing bigger boats, bigger nets, more of them, 
and going out sixty, seventy, or a hundred miles to sea, 
and catching the herrings before they came into the small 
bays, these came to the conclusion that it was practically 
useless, if not mischievous, to make such laws as those 
who had little boats and depended on fishing in the 
small inland lakes demanded. He was not prepared to 
say that the gentlemen from Canada were wrong in saying 
that it would be perhaps dangerous to do away with 
restrictions there ; but it must be borne in mind, that large 
as the Canadian lakes were, they were different from the 
Atlantic ocean, and whilst restrictions in Canada might be 
useful, it did not follow that such restrictions would be of 
any use when dealing with such a large space of water as 
the Atlantic. There was just one omission in Mr. Duffs com- 
prehensive paper which he should like to bring under the 
notice of the many eminent men whom he was glad to see 
were taking a practical interest in this matter. Hardly any 
reference was made to the fishing on the west, coast of 
Scotland, a comparatively new enterprise, which was carried 
on in the open sea. There had been for many years from 
l,ooo to 2,000 boats engaged in that way, not in the Loch 
Earne, not in the Firth of Clyde, but out from the outer 
Hebrides into the Atlantic. They began to get fish there 
on the 24th of May, and continued up to the present time, 
and a very large quantity was caught there. The facilities 
for sending it to market, however, were very bad indeed. 
One fact would show the extent of that fishing industry. 
In a Parliamentary paper submitted to the House of 
Commons not long ago, it appeared that from the rail- 
way station at Oban, three times as much fish was des- 
patched as from any other station. Upwards of 12,000 

[2] D 



34 

tons of herrings were sent from that station, whilst the 
total quantity sent on the whole Caledonian railway system, 
including all the towns from Aberdeen to Montrose, was 
only about 25,000 tons. He hoped, therefore, that some 
account would be taken of this newly developed fishery 
out in the Atlantic, by boats coming from Montrose, Fraser- 
burgh, and all the north-eastern points to Stornoway. 
There was no telegraphic communication of any kind, and 
the people were put to a very great inconvenience in con- 
sequence of having no facilities for sending their fish to 
market, or getting salt or anything else when they had a 
large supply of fish. 

Mr. JOHNSON (Montrose) said he was one of the jury to 
examine the salmon nets and fixed nets, and whilst ex- 
amining these nets he had been very much interested in 
the exhibits from foreign countries. For many years they 
had been fishing with the same nets with very little im- 
provement except, as Mr. Duff had said, that they had sub- 
stituted cotton for hemp, and had made, what they called 
in Scotland " clipper nets." The first thing which the jury 
discussed was the steamer on the Canadian lakes, which 
had been already referred to. It was the first thing which 
took his attention and had riveted it ever since, and he had 
wondered whether it could be adapted for herring fishing. 
It could be seen in the Canadian department, and was 
shooting a net over the stern and was hauling one in at 
the bow at the same time. He did not expect that that 
would ever be carried out in the herring fishery, but he 
thought it came nearest to anything he had ever seen for 
doing what appeared very desirable, viz., having some me- 
chanical means of reeling up the nets. The only difficulty 
which he saw in the way was in reeling up the herring 
nets to get clear of the buoys that buoyed it up. So 
impressed was he with, the adaptability of that steamer 



35 

that he was quite prepared, with the sanction of the Execu- 
tive Committee, on behalf of his firm in Montrose, to offer 
a prize to any one who should adopt that system and make 
it workable for the east coast herring fishery. The next 
thing he noticed was the purse seine. He understood that 
was largely used in America, and he thought if it were 
brought into use in the herring fishery it would revolutionise 
the trade to a large extent. If they could get these nets 
to work on these large steamers they could soon bring 
them into port. For some years past when the boats had 
been going longer distances, instead of coming in in twenty- 
four hours they were sometimes three days ; and he recol- 
lected on one Sunday morning about ^"500 worth of herrings 
had to be carted direct to the manure heap because they 
had been three days in the boat instead of one. He should 
also be glad to give a premium in connection with the 
purse seine if it could be made available for herring fishing. 
The only other matter he would speak about was a cod 
net which was entirely new to him but which was exhibited 
in the Norwegian, Swedish, and Canadian sections. The 
nets of Norway and Sweden were what would be called 
gill nets, or hung nets, sinking to the bottom. He had 
never heard of a cod in Scotland or England being caught 
in any net except the trawl. He should like, if possible, 
to bring these three nets and the steamer before the fisher- 
men of the United Kingdom, and would suggest that it would 
be very valuable if some of the illustrated newspapers 
would give drawings of the net and as much explanation 
about them as their friends from those countries would be 
willing to impart. 

Mr. WlLMOT (Canadian Commissioner), having heard the 
Canadian name mentioned conspicuously in regard to a 
particular description of net, wished to say a word upon 
it. He was not going to discuss the question of herring 



36 

fisheries to any great extent, but merely to state, as he did 
on a former occasion, that if herrings were caught in such 
vast numbers as it was proposed to do by these machines 
it must more or less affect all other fish inshore. The 
herring was the principal food of a large class of fish, and 
if they were destroyed to such an extent by these im- 
proved machines and all the ingenuity which man could bring 
to bear, not only would the herring be exterminated, but 
it would very seriously affect the other fish which fed upon 
them. He regretted very much to find that the system 
pursued in Canada was now being taken hold of so readily 
by gentlemen from Scotland for the destruction of these 
poor innocent fish. These things were sent over merely to 
illustrate the mode by which fish were sometimes caught 
in Canada, and it was being taken hold of to exterminate, 
to a greater extent than was now done, the class of fish 
which in Canada they were desirous of protecting. The 
herring of Canada was a different fish from the herring of 
the sea ; it was a salmonoid very much superior to the herring 
of the sea, and at one time existed in vast abundance in the 
inland lakes of Canada. In some of those lakes there were 
now no herrings left at all, and the consequence was there 
were no salmon, no salmon trout, and none of the many 
species of fish which feed on those herrings. If this could 
be done in a short period of time in the great inland seas 
of Canada, the same results would follow here if these de- 
structive engines were adopted, and no protection given to 
the fish. The food of the larger fish must not be destroyed 
if they were to be retained. The Almighty had made all 
things wisely ; He caused the herring to multiply beyond 
almost any other fish, because it was fed upon more largely 
than any other description, consequently the herring must 
produce a greater number to keep up their kind, and if they 
went on inventing engines, and using every effort to destroy 



37 

the smaller fish simply because he was small, the result would 
be to exterminate the larger ones. However he would not 
speak at any length on this subject, because he anticipated 
it would come up for discussion later. He rose to thank 
his friends who had thought proper to draw attention to 
the superior modes of fishing to a certain extent pursued 
in Canada, and to warn them not to use it very largely, for 
fear that if they did, they would destroy the vast supplies of 
herrings in the sea, and as a consequence the larger 
and better description of fish also. 

Earl DuciE then proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. Duff 
for the paper he had read, which was very valuable, not 
only in itself, but for having produced what one of the 
speakers had called a want of unanimity, which he con- 
sidered to be one of the most valuable features of the 
discussion. Mr. Duff had treated of the history of the 
herring during the present century, but he remembered in 
the course of the discussion that he had read in Gibbon, 
who, when treating of one of the early eruptions of the 
barbarians in the early Christian ages, and describing the 
effects that it had on Europe, told them that it had even 
interfered with the herring trade on the coast of the North 
Sea, and he would commend that remark to the investiga- 
tion of anybody who proposed to write the history of the 
herring. 

Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL seconded the motion. He said 
in these days of division of labour, however talented a v 
man might be, he never was so effective as he might be, 
unless he devoted himself specially to one subject. That 
was what his friend Mr. Duff had done, and he had done 
so with good effect. He showed, in his own person, that a 
good sailor and a good fisherman was likely to make a 
good member of Her Majesty's Government, and so he was 
heartily welcomed in the function which he fulfilled in the 



38 

House of Commons. He had not only given a deal of 
useful information, but had given rise to a very interesting 
discussion. These were days in which Radicals were found 
attacking our oldest institutions ; next to the Bible, he 
thought nothing was so firmly fixed on the Englishman as 
the old proverb that there were as good fish in the sea as 
ever came out of it, but even that had been questioned 
to-day, and had led to a very lively discussion. He did 
not pretend to say which side was right ; he would only 
observe, as another speaker had done, that there might be 
two sides to this question, as regarded the deep sea and 
the inland waters. His attention was especially called to 
that from the observation of Mr. Wilmot, from which it 
appeared that the American herring was totally different 
from our herrings ; but the discussion had been with regard 
to the European herring, and he thought there was a great 
deal of weight in the arguments and the facts stated by 
Mr. Duff. 

The motion having been passed unanimously, 
Mr. DUFF, M.P., in reply, said he had been very glad to 
have aroused such an interesting discussion. He would 
not enter into the question at any length, but he might be 
permitted to recall to the recollection of the audience a 
distinction drawn by Professor Huxley in his opening 
address. He said there were two kinds of fishing, fresh- 
water fishing and salt-water fishing, and while it could be 
shown that you could over-fish and destroy fish in fresh 
water, there was nothing to prove that salt-water fish were 
exhaustible. This had a bearing on the remarks made by 
Mr. MacLelan and Mr. Wilmot, because both those gentle- 
men's observations had reference to the fresh-water fishing 
and the lake fishing. Dr. Day, who spoke of sea fisheries, 
did not quite go the length of saying what they were to 
do. He rather criticised his observations, without putting 



39 

forward any alternative scheme. He did not think it was 
possible for man to destroy the fish in the sea. That point 
was very shortly and ably put in a lecture which Professor 
Huxley gave at Norwich. He said there were a number 
of enemies of the herring : the cod fish, birds, and everything 
else we have heard of, and if man took so many herrings 
out of the sea, it was a sort of co-operative society, those 
others herring fisheries getting so much less ; but as for 
any idea of destroying deep sea fisheries, from the know- 
ledge we possessed he was diametrically opposed to the 
opinion expressed by Dr. Day and some other gentlemen, 
and he believed that more investigation would only show 
that it was absolutely impossible. Still, he admitted it was 
a subject which ought to be discussed, and he was glad to 
hear their opinion upon it. He did not think it was pos- 
sible to supply the markets now by simple inshore fishing, 
and while he admitted that to some extent those fisheries 
might be injured, much more harm was done to fisheries 
in general by trying to protect them, than any good which 
might be supposed to be effected by increasing the inshore 
fisheries. It was true that restrictive legislation had not 
been put in force in all cases, but both the chairman and 
himself had alluded to the very great mischief which was 
done on the west coast of Scotland, for the population of 
the western islands were reduced almost to starvation by 
laws which did absolutely no good to the fisheries. The 
Executive Committee would pay every attention to the 
suggestion made by Mr. Johnson with reference to bringing 
the matters he mentioned more fully before the public. 
In conclusion, he begged to propose a vote of thanks to 
the Chairman, who, he was glad to think, as a scientific 
authority, as well as a man of practical knowledge, entirely 
agreed with him on the controverted question which had 
been raised. 



40 

Mr. BRUCE, M.P., seconded the motion. Having the 
honour to represent in the House of Commons a number of 
fishermen located on the shores of the Firth of Forth, he 
had naturally listened with great interest to the discussion, 
and he might say that was one of those places where the 
herring fishing used to be prosecuted with greater success, 
but which appeared to some extent to have been deserted 
of late years by the herrings. The reasons for this were 
not very well known, but he was glad to say that the 
fishermen in that quarter had not given up fishing, but 
had improved their boats and gone farther out to sea to 
carry on their industry. Whatever else they might differ 
about, all would agree that it was of the greatest import- 
ance that a gentleman of such ability as Sir Lyon Playfair 
should give his mind to the study of these subjects, and 
that nothing but good could result from his investigations. 

Mr. WlLMOT asked leave to add, in explanation, that 
the salt-water herring fisheries were more extensive than 
the whole of those on the shores of Great Britain, and that 
whilst he spoke of the fresh-water lakes Mr. MacLelan had 
spoken of the herrings of the sea. 

The vote of thanks having been carried unanimously, 

The CHAIRMAN, in responding, assured Dr. Day that 
the last thing he desired was to stop discussion by speaking 
ex catkedrd, but, as late Chairman of the' House of Com- 
mons, he knew that having spoken then he could not speak 
again, and so was obliged to say all he had to say ; but it 
was with the desire of eliciting discussion, and not putting 
an end to it He had been delighted to hear the different 
opinions given by different speakers, and he was quite sure 
the public would profit very much by the different views 
put forward. 



CHAKING CROSS. 



International Fisheries Exhibition, 

LONDON, 1883. 



SCOTCH EAST COAST, 
ORKNEY AND SHETLAND, LEWIS AND BARRA 

HERRING FISHING. 



W. S. MILN. 



[PRIZE ESSAY.} 



LONDON: 
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 

13 CHARING CROSS, S.W. 
1884. 



LONDON : 
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 

STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS. 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING 
FISHING. 



FISHERMEN NUMBERS EMPLOYED HABITS AND 
SOCIAL CONDITION QUALITIES AND CHARACTER- 
ISTICSWEALTH. 

THE number of fishermen actively employed in the herring 
fishings during the seasons, from Northumberland to, and 
including, Wick, and at Orkney and Shetland, and Lewis 
and Barra in the Hebrides, can be safely estimated at over 
45,000 men and boys. 

The habits of fishermen are distinctly discernible as 
pertaining to a broad sectarianism. Individually, their 
idea of bodily comfort consists in having on a superabun- 
dance of clothes. Even during the warm months of July 
and August, whilst working hard in hoisting their catch to 
the carts on the quay, it is ridiculous the amount of 
clothing they have on them. The great beads of sweat 
pouring down their faces and bodies, and the ofttimes 
visible steaming therefrom, does not convince them that 
they are overclad. 'Tis a pity they do not regulate their 
dress in accordance with the weather, as it is obvious that 
over-burdening one's self with clothing is unhealthy, and 
weakening to the body, especially during warm weather. 
What a contrast to the French fishermen ; they having a 



4 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

tendency to underclothe themselves, judging by their open- 
breasted semmit, or shirt. Our fishermen are likewise very 
much needing a thorough lecturing and training in the art 
of making clean by a judicious and plentiful use of soap 
and water, and an occasional total immersion. The fisher- 
women might follow the example also with advantage. Of 
course there are exceptions, and they deserve commenda- 
tion for their cleanliness. Their homes are comfortable, 
but are slightly overcrowded, generally clean, and the 
furniture more ancient than modern. Fish is their great 
sustenance, but when they are at the fishing centres the 
beef they then use makes up for the scarcity whilst at 
home during the winter. It is necessary to give a justly 
merited warning and particularly required denunciation 
regarding overcrowding at the large centres, such as 
Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Wick, during the season. House 
proprietors and lodging-house keepers are . more to blame 
than the fishermen, as they should be made to provide 
suitable accommodation if they are to be allowed to lodge 
fishermen and their families. As for the fishermen, poor 
simple people, they are only too glad to secure any shelter 
during their temporary residence, no matter how filthy. 
The accommodation being limited, overcrowding is general, 
and the manner of their huddling together in outhouses, 
stores, lofts, and even worse places, is a disgrace to civilisa- 
tion. To know about, and to have seen the overcrowding 
and filth, and to have inhaled the nauseous vapours when 
passing these temporary abodes, gives one the feeling that 
such living is not only disgusting, but degrading. Such 
mode of living is not the fishermen's choice, but is forced 
on them as a necessity. It is high time that a Parliamentary 
Commission be appointed to examine and report upon the 
accommodation available for the fisher people at the various 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 5 

herring fishing stations. Let their visit take place during 
the heat of a season, and the disclosures will show an 
indecency and moral degradation of a most appalling 
nature. One visit would certainly be sufficient, and would 
be the means of raising the fishing community from a 
backward and unwholesome living, to one more healthy 
and modern. 

The qualities and characteristics of fishermen may also 
be said to be sectarian. Amongst the Highlanders 
intemperance is the prevailing vice, but it is gratifying to 
observe the wonderful alteration that is gradually making 
itself visible in their sect, and which augurs well for the 
hope that in the near future our fishermen will be known 
as a temperate' race of men. Religion has also a consider- 
able part of their attention. They are chiefly connected 
with the Gaelic Church. The southern fishermen are pretty 
well mixed up with all the denominations. Missionary 
work receives good support, is beneficial, and has a 
splendid ground to work upon. However, the fishermen, 
notwithstanding their regular church attendance and 
adhesiveness to their creeds seeming equal to fanaticism 
are found, on a close observation of their daily life, to be 
divided thus, one-third zealous, God-fearing, and good 
living men, while the other two-thirds are not, and a great 
part are (I am sorry to have to say it) in disposition 
inclined to the opposite direction. I draw my conclusions 
from close observance. Obstinacy in argument is a 
prominent characteristic. There is also a deep vindictive- 
ness and revengefulness in their natures against those 
whom they may deem enemies. Without flattery, let us 
glance at the good qualities of our fishermen. To their 
employers they are respectful, and self-knowing, subser- 
vient ; hard working and energetic in their occupation ; 



6 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

cautious (after a manner, ofttimes unnecessarily and 
unfittingly so) ; bold and daring in presence of danger ; 
affectionate to their wives and children ; ambitious to be 
affluent, and desirous to keep on a level with the times ; 
but withal, retaining a strict adhesion to their caste. 

Wealth is pretty equally divided. Well-to-do fishermen 
are sure to possess, first, a house and furniture ; second, boat 
and gear, or perhaps shares of a large and a small boat ; 
third, nets, lines, and other fishing materials. The heads 
of families are generally tolerably comfortable as regards 
means. A small proportion may, through unfortunate 
circumstances, be poor for a time, but perseverance soon 
overcomes the poverty. The various banks receive a 
goodly amount of money on deposit from them ; and 
when we consider that mostly all the houses in the fishing 
villages which they inhabit belong to themselves for the 
greater part, we must allow that as a class they are both 
powerful and rich. Young fishermen, as they earn and 
save money, invest it in their fathers' or relatives' boats, 
thereby securing an interest in the boat, and therefore in 
the industry. They earn and save more money than any 
other class in Scotland, and as fortune and hard work seem 
to go hand in hand, the energy and instinctive ambition 
for supremacy entitles us to reasonably expect a continuous 
and progressive prosperity in the future. 



FISHINGMATERIAL BOATS AND GEAR NETS BASKETS 
AND SPADES METHOD OF CATCH DELIVERY. 

Fifteen years ago the fishing boats were principally 
those which we know now under the name of the " skaffic," 
a fast sailing, but unhandy and very much inferior boat 
compared with the present new style. The cost of a 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 



"skaffie" boat would then range from 175 to 210. The 
" KY " i.e. Kirkcaldy style, is the most popular at present. 
They are first-class built, and will carry with comfort a 
catch of 70 to 100 crans of herrings, equal to 8 to 15 tons. 
Their dimensions and "rig" make them suitable for a 
further from shore fishing than the " skaffie." According 
to the newest improvements and additional appliances, a 
first-class " KY " style of boat would cost over 300. There 
have been a good many highly superior boats launched 
during the past two or three years, their shape slightly 
differing from the " KY " style, but they are materially of 
the same class, with the exception that they are better deck- 
built and have the most modern appliances. They cost 
20 to 50 more than the average " KY." Gear comprises 
sails, ropes, anchors, chains, oars, &c., and their cost is in- 
cluded in the price of the boat. The following table shows 
the exact number of boats fishing at each station, from 
Northumberland to Shetland, and including Lewis and 
Barra, for the past five years. 



Stations and Districts. 


1878. 


1879. 


1880. 


1881. 


1882. 


WICK to Keiss 


170 




6 






Lybster and Clyth 


3/V 


132 


141 


147 


140 


Forse Station 


14 


10 


















4 


Latheronwheel Station . . . 


16 


15 


IS 


15 


13 


Dunbeath Station 


39 


40 


32 


34 


3i 


Helmsdale Station 


160 


130 


170 


145 


160 


Portmahomack Station . . . 


26 


16 


22 


28 


30 


Burghead and Hopeman Station 


34 


17 


47 


45 


So 


Lossiemouth Station .... 


13 


24 


42 


47 


42 


Buckie District 


3 2 


26 


7t 


67 


nc 








/ j 


*-V 


Vi) 


Portsoy Station 


7C 


-0 


__ 




Aft 




JJ 





Oy 


T 


4 


Whitehills Station ..... 


9 


13 


10 


IO 


12 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 



Stations and Districts. 


1878. 


1879- 


1880. 


1881. 


.ss, 


Banff Station 


2 





8 


II 


1C 


Macduff Station 


36 


y 

52 


41 


39 


J 

66 


Gardenstown Station .... 


25 


49 


36 


53 


4i 


Fraserburgh District .... 


879 


1006 


944 


1007 


900 


Peterhead District 


68 3 


768 


716 


849 


822 


Aberdeen District 


4QO 


400 


361 


501 


482 


Stonehaven District .... 


fyw 








IOI 


Montrose District 


233 


204 


244 


225 


1 66 


Anstruther District 


35 


36 


70 


36 


20 


Leith to D unbar 


40 


65 


60 


60 


45 


Eyemouth District 


321 


233 


373 


282 


38i 


Orkney Islands 


102 


181 


1 7O 


1 80 


107 


Shetland Islands 


iy-& 
120 


1U *5 

206 


i/u 

206 


284 


-// 

372 


Lewis and Barra 


8 7 I 


1084 


1381 


1285 


1300 



Taking the year 1882, we have 6131 boats, which, 
calculated at an average cost of 275 per boat including 
gear, gives the handsome capital of 1,686,025 sterling 
invested solely by fishermen in these herring boats, al- 
together exclusive of nets. It is pleasing to relate that 
these boats are being covered against loss by Insurance. 

There is now no regulation size of mesh or net The net 
as bought from the manufacturer is 60 yards in length, 
but when hung on the back rope is only equal to 40 yards 
long. The depth is on average about 12 yards. The 
cotton threads comprising the net are of 9, 12, 15, 18, and 
2 1 ply. The -mesh is about I square inch, measured from 
knot to knot, and commonly there are 32, 33, and 34 
meshes in the yard. As the nets get older, through 
shrinking, there are 34 to 38, and even 40 meshes to the 
yard. During a fair fishing the new nets are regularly 
" barked" once a fortnight. Old nets require " barking" only 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 9 

once a month. " Barking " is the process of browning the 
nets by boiling them in cutch. The " swing rope " is a rope 
attached to the nets from the boat and is their safeguard, 
so to speak. The price of a net is in the meantime 33^., 
which, together with mounting 4^. 6d. + head rope 12s. 6d. 
+ buoy 4s. 6d. + floats 3^. + bark $s. gd. + fishermen's 
labour estimated at Ss. gd. = 3 los. ; and therefore that 
is the sum to be paid for a fair average quality net ready 
for use. A boat carries from 25 to 50 nets, and that 
quantity is termed a " fleet." Making the lowest possible 
estimates appear by allowing only 25 nets to each boat, we 
have in use 153,275 nets, which at 3 los. per net, gives 
the value of 536,462 sterling. 

The baskets for the measuring of the herrings are 
supplied by the curer, and, sad to relate, in too many cases 
are slightly larger than the regulation size. The remedy 
lies with the fishermen, and they have themselves to blame 
if they do not take advantage thereof. The regulation 
measurement of the cran is 37^ gallons imperial standard 
measurement. There are 4 baskets to the cran, and each 
basket is exactly one-fourth of the aforementioned required 
standard measurement. In shape they resemble a common 
tub, but are wicker-worked, having in circumference two 
or three inches more at top than bottom. The rim of the 
basket is heavy worked and has two handles for fixing 
the hoisting rope and lifting. There requires to be on 
board the boat from two to four spades or scoops for 
shovelling the herrings into the baskets. Formerly they 
were entirely wooden, but now the heads are of zinc. The 
fishermen supply these spades ; they cost from 2s. 6d. to 
3-y. each. Baskets cost about 2s. each. Making a fair 
allowance for each boat we find that these articles presently 
in use would give a money value of 5000. 

E. 23. c 



io THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

Method of catch is thus explained : the boat and crew 
being ready to proceed to sea the crew get aboard 
and commence to " red," i.e. fold the nets in methodical 
succession, head-rope being to "stern," and foot-rope to 
" bow." To counteract the weight and position of the nets 
stones are used to balance. That finished, the boat is 
pushed or rowed out of the harbour, sail is hoisted, and, 
according to the state of wind and tide, is steered out to the 
fishing grounds. Arrived there, sail is lowered, and the 
nets " cast " or " shot " over the starboard side of the boat. 
The " watch " is set. Shortly before sunrise, and with 
the disappearance of the phosphoric light, the nets are 
hauled aboard and the herrings are shaken, weather per- 
mitting, from the nets into the " hold," and the nets folded 
methodically. Should the sea be rough when the hauling 
takes place, the nets cannot be shaken ; but that no time 
may be lost, and to admit of the herrings being delivered 
in best possible condition, the fishermen always endeavour 
to have their nets shaken as they approach the harbour. 

Delivery is here to be understood as from the boat to 
the carts on the quay. The fishermen shovel the herrings 
into the baskets and hoist them by means of ropes running 
through a " pulley " attached to the top of the boat's mast. 
When on a level with the quay, the carter, who has a rope 
fixed to the basket rope, draws to him, and the contents 
are emptied into his cart. A crew consists of five or six men 
and a boy, and in delivering the herrings, half of them 
attend to the filling of the baskets, and the other half to the 
hoisting. All have hard work, and there is no stoppage 
till every herring is delivered. The hoisting tells severely 
on the hands, and is not improved by the curious use 
of heavy worsted " mits " or gloves so often seen worn by 
the " hoisters." 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. n 



FISH-CURERS CURING YARDS PLANT COOPERS 
ORAMEN GUTTERS KIPPERERS AND SMOKERS 
CARTAGE STOCK. 

There are about 500 firms engaged in the herring curing 
trade on the East Coast, Orkney and Shetland, Lewis and 
Barra. The capital invested would amount to from 720,000 
to 1,000,000 sterling. Of all classes they are always the 
most dependent, entirely relying on the sea's product ; 
independent, meantime, by their position and standing ; 
enterprising yet rash and speculative none more so. 
They are industrious, and are deserving of the country's 
best thanks for so carefully, laboriously, even expensively, 
but not withal judiciously, conducting their business, the 
methods and results of which are so highly gratifying as to 
command the esteem of millions of people at home and 
abroad. They have raised to a high pinnacle the fame 
of the Scotch herring trade, and long may they preserve 
the position and honour. 

Presuming that a herring curer has fully made up his 
mind as to the extent of his business, let us glance at 
his requirements. In the first place it is necessary that 
a suitable " stance " be procured, near or at the harbour, 
whereon the yard is to be erected. Supplies of wood 
(staves) and hoops are ordered, and suitable 'plant' is 
bought. The coopers are engaged. Boat-engaging time 
comes on, and the curer looks out for the good boats, and 
endeavours to engage them. After fixing his boats, he 
gives his orders for the salt required. If he is a practical 
curer and cooper he assists in the cutting and making of 
heads for the barrels, and otherwise superintends the 
business. 



12 THE .SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

Curing yards are commonly square shaped. The 
buildings constituting a yard differ very much, in fact 
every locality has a different style. At Fraserburgh and 
Peterhead some very fine yards have been built lately. 
The frontages are of stone, and perhaps several stores are 
also of stone, but generally there are one or more wooden 
erections, stones, kilns, or coverings. At Pointlaw, Aber- 
deen, there are thirty-five yards, which are all, without 
exception, built of wood. This is owing to the short leases 
obtainable from the Harbour Commissioners. Pointlaw 
is part of the reclaimed ground at the Inches, and it is 
specially set apart for fish-curing. 

The portion fronting the street or lane is generally the 
" gutting shed." Through a swing door or doors in the 
front of this shed the herrings are tumbled promiscuously, 
and fall into a large square box, or tank, called a " farlin," 
i.e. a repository for the herrings, where they are " roused," 
and await the process of gutting. Adjoining is the " cooper- 
age." In front thereof, at a distance of a few yards, is the 
" firing-plate and truss-hoops." Sufficient storage ac- 
commodation is required for the barrels, salt, hoops and 
staves. Of late I have noticed an improvement in 
the gutting-sheds ; I refer to the laying of the floors with 
concrete. It is worthy of mention that the fish-curers at 
Shetland, while laying out capital on their yards, are likewise 
under the necessity of providing "jetties," or landing slips 
near their stations at their own expense. I sincerely trust 
their enterprise will be rewarded. Shetland may be said 
to have risen within the past two years from insignificance 
to eminence. Whereas last year curing was carried on 
under difficulty, the catch being rather too heavy to be 
worked properly, the temporary curing yards seeming 
swamps, shipment difficult, communication limited, and 



Xlr-23. 




THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 13 

house accommodation more so, this year the curers will 
have nearly all the advantages to be had at home. The 
telegraph service is extended, as also steamer and land 
communication. Several substantial "jetties" have been 
built, and likewise good curing yards have been put up. 
Even the remote parts of the islands have every prospect 
of seeing a general merchant open business when the fishing 
begins. Barra, on the west coast, is by Lady Gordon 
Cathcart's assistance gradually rising from obscurity to 
significance, and although last year was a failure, it is 
to be hoped that the future fishings will prove a steady 
increase compared to the former years. Stornoway has 
now assumed the supremacy of the west coast, and has a 
large trade. On account of the Barra failure last season, 
Stornoway being extra-well fished, it is likely that there 
will be a great increase of boats next season (1883). The 
west coast fishing is for the greater part prosecuted by 
east coast curers, and, with the exception of Stornoway, 
all the yards are of a temporary character. 

Plant consists of farlins (already described) ; small tubs 
or baskets for the various selections ; large rousing tub ; 
hoop-bending mill, costs about 11 to 15; head-boring 
mill, costs about 4 or 5 ; grindstone for sharpening 
tools ; firing-plate and truss-hoops ; crisset and fender ; 
steep for soaking hoops ; head and side jointers ; head and 
side planes, or pluckers ; adze for notching hoops ; trussing 
hammer and drivers ; shore, croze, and flencher or chime- 
howl ; crumb or champhering-knife, head-knife, draw- 
knife ; compass for taking the circumference of the barrel- 
heads ; head and crosscut saws ; two bits for boring the 
bung and spile holes; and stave-moulding axe, saw stool, 
head-cleaning board, dowl-dropper, and diagonal rod. 
Where there are kilns there are also required steeps for 

E. 23. D 



U THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

pickling the herrings, tenters or spits for hanging the 
herrings while being smoked, together with other small 
utensils which are hardly worth mentioning. Be it under- 
stood that quantities of the above articles are required 
according to the extent of the business. 

The coopers steadily employed in the trade are about 
3000 in number, including apprentices. During the herring 
fishing the journeymen, on an average, receive 33^. to 35.$-. 
per week. Foremen a few shillings more. During the 
winter their wages are earned on the work done. The 
principal employment then is barrel-making. A good man 
can make by steady work 24 barrels a week. The price 
for making a barrel is is., and therefore the cooper can earn 
2^s. per week by steady work. He has a very responsible 
position, and is in reality the practical fish-curer. First, 
there is the necessity of making his barrels the exact 
regulation size, and showing an apparent good workman- 
ship, tight fitting and well hooped. Second, care and 
punctiliousness in "rousing," i.e. salting to keep the 
herrings in good condition, till convenient to be gutted, 
and during the process of gutting. Third, the keeping 
in good working order all plant, and especially the farlins, 
tubs and gutting knives, and the superintending of 
gutting, selection, laying, and packing. Fourth, he has to 
devote particular attention to the pickling and filling up, 
and presentation for the brand. Although not receiving a 
remuneration equal in comparison to the amount of labour 
and responsibility, still, greatly to their credit, they are a 
contented, hardworking, thrifty, and energetic class of men, 
and by their excellent service are the instruments in 
making for the Scotch cure such a high fame as it has. 

Oramen are only employed during the herring fishing 
season ; 400 or 500 might be the estimate of the numbers 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 15 

employed. Their wages are about 2os. per week, and they 
are engaged to assist the coopers, and make themselves 
generally useful in the yard. Many of them are engaged 
as "cranners," that is, to attend to the delivery of the 
herrings from the boats, keep correct count of the baskets 
emptied into the carts, and in particular to see that the 
baskets are properly filled, and otherwise look to the 
interests of the fish-curer he is in service with. They are 
mostly of the labouring class, or persons out of employment. 

" Gutters " are those engaged to gut the herrings on 
their arrival at the curing-yard. Women are employed as 
gutters. The fish-curer engages a "crew" of women for 
each boat. A crew consists of three persons. Two gut, and 
the other one packs the herrings gutted by them. There 
are over 20,000 women employed during the season. Their 
wages are at the rate of %d. per barrel, gutting and packing, 
per crew. Those who are fortunately with a curer having 
a large average make a good sum of money for the season, 
but there are also those unfortunately with a curer with a 
poor average, and therefore their wages are comparatively 
small. The "gutting of herrings is a laborious occupation. 
It is common in a yard to hear women singing cheerily at 
their work, they having commenced at mid-day and con- 
tinued work in the same bent-figured attitude till the early 
hours next morning. Once commenced, there is> no stoppage 
till the finish. While the herrings are before them, money 
is to be made. Work is no object. When the curer t 
engages the gutting women, they are paid " arle " money of 
from 35-r. to 55^. each woman, according to their known 
qualifications as " gutters." 

Kipperers and smokers have quite a different class of 
work from the gutters. Kipperers, in the first place, have 
to "split" the herrings, and afterwards have to pack them into 

D 2 



1 6 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

the boxes. They are generally engaged for about 17 s. per 
week, but sometimes we find them working for $d. per hour. 

Smokers are the men employed to attend to the smoking, 
hanging up, and taking down of the herrings. They get 
about ' 2/j-. to $6s. per week, and considering the heavy 
work they are not overpaid. They are continually 
" heaping " the fires, and one can easily imagine the 
unwholesome vapours and heat to be simply stifling. It 
only requires an " anxious inquirer " to put his head in at 
the door of a smoke-house to convince him that a smoker's 
duties are onerous, most trying to the health, and exceed- 
ingly dangerous. 

For cartage of the herrings from the boats to the yard, 
and when cured from the yard to ship's side for export, 
contracts are entered into between the curer and carter. 
The contract rates vary at all centres, but 2d. per cran 
from the boat to the yard, and ^d. per barrel from the 
yard to ship's side, may be given as the likeliest average. 
The best style of bulk herring cart is a long, even-balanced 
body-cart, and is specially adapted for the trade. A 
temporary division in the middle of a common cart 
prevents the herrings from slipping backwards, thereby 
tending to overbalance the cart and spill the herrings. For 
conveying barrels a " lorry " is the best. The income 
derived from the cartage of herrings for the past few years 
is not less than ; 15,000 per annum. 

The principal articles of a herring curer's stock are 
staves and heading, hoops and salt. The curer may 
procure billet-wood and cut into staves by his own order ; 
but generally the staves are delivered at the yard ready to 
be worked. The various woods used for barrel-making in 
the order of their value are larch, birch, ash, spruce, and 
Scotch fir. Larch is the dearest wood, and undoubtedly 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 17 

makes the finest barrels ; costs from 8os. to 90$-. per 1000 
feet, and on account of its clearness is not so much used as 
it deserves to be. Birch is the medium quality, and is the 
most popular. Perhaps half of all the barrels made are of 
birch. Our greatest supplies are from Norway ; Mandal 
and Porsgrund shipping the best qualities. Our home 
supplies are indeed very small, and there is nothing in 
the quality of the home birch that particularly calls for 
comment. The price is at present firm at 75^. per 1000 
feet. Spruce and common fir have of late years come much 
into use, and are appreciated on account of cheapness. 
Likewise the curers can be supplied by the neighbouring 
wood merchants at such times as they may require, and in 
small quantities. The price is from 6cxr. to 6$s. per 1000 
feet. These woods are very soft compared to larch or 
birch ; and after the barrel has been filled with herrings 
and lain for 2 or 3 months in store, it is found that the 
pickle has become absorbed in the wood, the barrel has 
expanded, and therefore the herrings present a slackened 
appearance. J give it as my opinion that the less fir 
barrels are used the better for the trade. The curers may 
save a little in the price of the barrel, but they will 
certainly lose more than the amount in the sale of the 
barrels of herrings, for the simple reason that the German 
herring dealers have a dislike to fir barrels. It takes about 
1 6 to 20 staves to make one barrel. 1000 feet of staves 
and 250 feet of heading will give about 70 barrels on an 
average. The nett cost of a barrel is from $s. ^d. to ^s. 6cf. 
according to the quality of the wood used. By these 
figures I estimate that it costs over .125,000 every year to 
prepare the stock of barrels for this herring fishing. 

The hoops required for the barrel are in length 71 feet, 
are about inch thick, and vary in breadth from to I inch. 



i8 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

They are of wood, and are principally either of ash, birch, 
elm, willow, and hazel. The great supply of hoops are 
bought through London merchants, and are collected by 
them from all parts. The finest finished hoops come from 
Surrey. The cash price of hoops is for whole barrel 34^., 
and for half-barrel 25^. f.o.b. London. From 16 to 18 
hoops are required for each barrel. The money value for 
the total used during each year is not under 45,000. 

The salt required by the curer is generally ordered about 
or immediately after the new year, and for delivery a week 
or two before the early fishing commences. The supply is 
calculated at from 12 to 15 tons of salt to the boat for a 
fair average fishing. Salt is in a great measure the re- 
sponsible element in the cure, and it is therefore in the 
best interests of the curer to procure the best salt suitable 
for curing purposes. For " rousing," common salt is quite 
good enough, but for " packing and filling up " a great 
grained salt is required first quality is the proper 
requisite. Lisbon and St. Ubes salt has found much 
favour as a splendid salt for " packing," and on the west 
coast is much appreciated. However, this salt is not so 
much dealt in as its quality would warrant, but that is 
probably on account of the risk, measurement instead of 
weight, or a disinclination, from lack of sufficient profit, to 
deal therewith by the seller on this side. German salt 
has been tried at one or two stations, and its qualities proven 
satisfactory. It is, however, still in its infancy, and from all 
appearance may take some little time to get out of it on 
account of prejudice. I have had the pleasure of myself 
introducing it at Aberdeen, having contracted for 150 tons^ 
for July delivery. This salt is exclusively for packing and 
filling up. It is beautifully clear, great grained, and stands 
an excellent analysis. 



PlateHr. 




Fishermens Herring Shovel. 
D? D Basket. 



East 



cvnd Head, shewijt formation 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 19 



ENGAGEMENTS BETWEEN CURER AND FISHER 

BOUNTY SYSTEM ARLES AND DATES OF 

AGREEMENT. 

The bounty system has been in force for a great length 
of time. From 1720 (perhaps before that time) to 1830 
there were bounties at irregular periods given by Govern- 
ment to aid in the further development and extension of 
the trade. For interesting examples, I quote the following. 
In the year 1727 a Board of Trustees was appointed to 
manage the sum of 20,000 per annum allowed by the 
Government from Scotch Revenue (vide Act, 23 Geo. II.). 
Great encouragements were given and assistance rendered 
in floating the " Free British White Herring Company," 
whose capital was 500,000. Bounty was then paid at 30^. 
per ton on " busses " from 20 to 80 tons burthen. The year 
1757 saw the bounty at 50^. per ton. We read of the 
Scotch having earned bounty in 1767, amounting to 3 1,396, 
but in 1781 only 9,674. In 1782 the bounty was reduced 
to 30^., not on the tonnage now, but on the ton of fish 
delivered. In 1808 we know of it having been paid in the 
form of 2s. for every barrel qualified, presented, and receiv- 
ing the Government brand. It was raised to 4^. in 18 1 5, and 
altogether withdrawn in 1830. Such was the bounty system 
of the olden times. Good in its way, and having its origin in 
the best of intentions viz. to promote the development, and 
by its monetary assistance to encourage the trade. 

The modern system is quite different, and to my seeming 
is a dangerous practice. It is a " bond," or " service," money 
paid by the herring curer to the fishers owning the boat as 
the part price of the contract. The following table shows 
the average amount of bounty per boat paid during the 



20 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 



past six years. Before then the bounties were compara- 
tively small, even as low as 5. 



Bounty paid 



i8 77 . 
20 



i8 79 . 
40 



20 40 



1882. 
48 



The fluctuations in bounty payments are entirely caused 
by the preceding year's catch and prices. Therefore the 
payments are purely speculative as to probable rise or fall 
for the coming year. A glance at the prices here given 
from the principal market Stettin will tend to prove this. 

The quotations on 3 1 st December were as follows : 

(Calculate 20^ mks. to i.) 



In 


1877. 1878. 


1879. 


1880. 


1881. 


1882. 




M. 


M. 


M. 


M. 


M. 


M. 


Scotch Crownfulls . 


44 


38 


52i-53 


29-30 


40|-4I 


38i-39 


Crown Matties 


29 


27-28 


34-37 


21-23 


34-35 


31-32 


Mixed 


27 


25-26 


35-37 


22i-2 3 i 


32i-34 


3i 


,, Spents 


26 


25-26 


371-38 


22| 


3'i 


3i 



The curers argue that to procure good boats good 
bounties must be paid. If bounties of a necessity must 
be given, then I agree with them. But why should 
bounties be paid ? For example, take two boats both 
getting the same amount of bounty. One takes 100 crans, 
and the other 200 crans ; in which case it would appear 
reasonable to expect that the catch of 100 crans should 
only receive half the bounty of the other ; but it is not so. 
They both have the same bounty, but the one boat's fish 
is considerably dearer than the other ; this to show that 
the bounty is not well or even-balanced. Again, if a curer 
has engaged eleven boats this year, he has paid out of his 
capital slightly more than 500 six or seven months before 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 21 

the fishing commences. There is an obvious risk in this 
speculative payment, and there is a chance of its being 
entirely lost. For instance, the Barra fishing last year 
(1882) was a complete failure. The bounty was 40 per 
boat. The curer's loss was averaged at 55 per boat. 
Had no bounty been paid, the loss would have only been 
.15 per boat. 

To the fishermen this payment of bounty is supposed to 
assist them in passing through the winter, and to allow of 
improvements to their boats. As presents to the fisher- 
men, without conditions attached thereto, such payments 
would be too highly commendable. But why not make 
this payment, if necessarily required by the fishermen, 
simply an advance to be repaid out of earnings ? In 
some instances the bounty is misapplied, and it has been 
known to encourage laziness amongst the crews, especially 
in the early weeks of the fishing, when the cran is cheaper 
than in the regular set time. Bounties will come to a 
sudden stop the first year there is a backward and losing 
fishing. At present a good year to the curer means a 
greater speculative payment for the one that is to come, 
and that without any augury as to an equivalent return. 

Aries are usually paid by the curer to the fisher over and 
above the bounty when the engagements are entered into. 
The arles are this year i per boat. As the fisher owning 
the boat has to " arle " his crew, I presume the i is given 
for that purpose. 

The average bounty, including arles, paid on the east 
coast for the coming season, 1883, is about 48 per boat ; 
inferior boats having 35 to 45 ; good boats 45 to 50 ; 
and first-class boats 50 to 53. Many boats are this year 
to commence fishing on the 1st July, but the engaged early 
fishing is from the 8th or loth July till the i6th or i8th 



22 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

July. The prices at these dates are us. to 14^-. per cran. 
The regular fishing commences on the i6th to i8th July, and 
continues thereafter for eight weeks, or till the complement 
of 200 crans is delivered. In the event of a boat making 
its complement before the eight weeks are over, and exceeds 
it, the herrings can be taken by the curer at a less rate 
14^. or i$s. per cran, but the curer is not bound to take 
them. The early fishing at Shetland commences this 
year during the first week of June. The price is 14^. or 
i$s. for the first 100 crans. The curers have it in their 
option to take more herrings at that money, or not The 
regular fishing commences on the ist July, and the price 
is 2os. for the first 250 crans. It is again in the curer's 
option to take more or not. The bounty and arles is 
on average 32 per boat. The native Shetland boats 
receive no bounty, and are engaged on the same terms as 
the " strangers." Curers on the mainland must have two 
stations (one on the west side, Scalloway, and one on the 
east side, Lerwick). This is accounted for by the theory 
that the herrings are only to be found on the west side 
during the first half of the season, and on the east side 
during the latter half. This theory may be correct or not, 
but at all events the curers and fishermen believe in it, and 
therefore the boats fish at two places, but under one 
agreement. The extension of the herring fishery at the 
North Isles only dates from last year. There are few 
stations on the west side, but all the season herrings were 
plentiful on the east side both early and late. The west 
coast fishing commences in the beginning of May, but the 
engagements generally run from the loth May, the. price 
being l$s. per cran. The regular fishing is from the 2Oth 
May till the end of June, and the price is 2os. per cran. 
The average bounty at Stornoway is ^35 per boat, and 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 23 

at Barra 45 per boat. According to qualifications the 
prices are low or high. The inferior boats have as low 
as 30, and first-class boats as high as 50. 



COPY OF AGREEMENT GENERAL WITH FISH-CURERS 
AND FISHERMEN. 

" Sir, 

" We, the undersigned crew of herring fisher- 
men, having good boats and proper fleets of nets in our 
possession, hereby agree diligently and faithfully to pro- 
secute the herring fishing for you at and deliver 

to you all herrings we catch as per agreement during 

herring fishing season 188 commencing on the July 

at shillings per cran, till July* an d from that date 

until eight weeks, at the rate of shillings per cran for 

two hundred crans, and shillings for all crans after- 
wards. All the herrings to be delivered in good (fisher- 
man's) workmanship order and condition, before P.M. 

of the day after which we leave the harbour for the fishing 
grounds. 

" Besides the above rates per cran we receive as 

bounty and earnest You supply net ground and cartage 
of fish and nets. All herrings not up to terms of agreement 
we will offer you at what they are worth." 




24 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 



CURING FRESHING KIPPERING RED HERRINGS 
TINNING FAMOUS PICKLE CURE A FEW REMARKS 
AS TO THE UTILITY OF FISH OFFAL. 

The trade in sending to the English markets, inland 
towns, and the larger country villages, receives a good deal 
of attention, and is very lucrative, unless there be a heavy 
fishing, and therefore a probable glut. There are only a 
few fish-curers who work this " fresh trade." It is principally 
carried on by fresh-fish buyers, and they buy from the 
boats or the curers their daily supplies at prices according 
to the markets and prospects. Stornoway in particular 
does a large " freshing " business. To explain the " freshing," 
let us suppose a supply of herrings has been got. They 
are " roused " and well laid with small grained salt ; 
straw, and perhaps matting, is put over the top of the barrel 
mouth and made firm. Boxes, barrels, or tubs will do, 
although iron-hooped boxes are the correct thing and all 
that is wanted is expeditious transmission to the consignee. 
There are a good many curers engaged in making kippers. 
A few of the many are long established, and therefore have 
a fairly wide known popularity as to their cure and merits. 
This coming season will see a great extension in kippering, 
as at large stations, such as Montrose, Aberdeen, Peterhead, 
Fraserburgh, Lerwick, and Stornoway, there are more 
curers entering on this branch of the trade. " Kippers " are 
at present a very popular edible, but there is only a limited 
home consumption, and as they do not keep their condition 
after two or three weeks, there is a danger In too fast 
extension, which will without doubt bring down the prices, 
and probably overstock the markets. It must be remem- 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 25 

bered also that the English cure a large portion of their 
catch in this style, and will prove dangerous competitors. 

Red herrings are not cured so much for the home 
markets as for foreign. The countries around the 
Mediterranean are the largest consumers, and prices there- 
from are good. The cure is thus described. The herrings 
are soaked in salt and saltpetre till they are rigid. The 
pickle is then removed. They are hung on the spits for a 
few days, and afterwards smoked until they are of the 
required colour. It takes eight or nine days to cure red 
herrings properly. 

The tinning of herrings for the greater part is confined to 
Aberdeen, and Australia is the great market. Last year 
(1882) there were close on 2^- millions of tins exported from 
Aberdeen for the various warm countries. There are from 
three to five herrings in a tin, and the tin and herrings 
weigh i Ib. The process of curing and putting up is pretty 
much kept secret, and in case of mistakes I had better not 
endeavour to describe the method. 

The famous Scotch pickle cure, the most important of 
all methods, now deserves special reference. The " pickle 
cure " was first practised as an article of trade in Holland 
in the year 1307. Immediately on the herrings being 
delivered by the carter at the yard, and deposited or 
"tumbled" into the farlin, i.e. gutting-tub, the coopers 
are careful to sprinkle them well with salt. This sprinkling 
of salt called " rousing " preserves and revives the con- 
dition of the herrings while they are being gutted. The 
gutting women lose no time in commencing their work. 
With their short knife in the right hand, and the herring in 
their left, they, by a dexterous and experienced movement 
withdraw the viscera and gills. All bloody matter is 
included therewith, and its withdrawal prevents the fish 



26 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

from turning a sickly colour, they would otherwise turn if 
the bloody matter remained. First-class cured fish keep 
beautifully clear and free from smell for nine or twelve 
months. After that time an unhealthy appearance makes 
itself manifest. As the herrings are gutted they are 
dropped into tubs according to their qualities. These tubs 
are placed close to the large gutting-box or farlin, and 
there is one for every selection. The gutters should be 
most particular in selection. The small tubs are carried by 
the " packers " to where the packing is taking place 
generally in the centre, or open part of the yard and 
emptied into a larger tub. Here they are again " roused." 
Two or three turns over with the hands is sufficient. In 
packing, the herrings are "laid" on their backs, and the packer 
sees that a proper quantity of salt is sprinkled over every tier. 
Attention is paid to pressing and refilling after the barrel 
has stood for a few days. Whereas small grained salt is 
the best for rousing, great grained salt is necessary for 
laying and packing. The various selections of the pickle 
cure on the east coast and Shetland are ist, Fulls, i.e. 
full-sized, having roe or milt developed ; 2nd, Matties, i.e. 
undersized, roe and milt immature ; 3rd, Spent, i.e. spawned 
fish ; 4th, Tornbellies, i.e. fish either split in the side, 
breast, or belly, while being gutted or torn in these parts 
in being shaken from the nets. The curers at various 
intervals commonly near the end of the season have 
another selection, viz. Mixed, i.e. matties and spents in 
equal quantities to be packed promiscuously in the same 
barrel. This mixed cure finds much favour with the North 
German and Russian dealers. I may also mention that 
since 1880 the disputing year many curers are making 
two selections of the " fulls," viz. large fulls and medium 
fulls. This is praiseworthy of the curers, and in my opinion is 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 27 

the only way to keep the Mattie selection entirely distinct. 
Formerly, in a barrel of matties there was an equal or 
very nearly so quantity of small fulls. Such should not 
be. I say that immature fish " matties " should be kept 
separate from mature fish, even though the mature fish be 
small sized. 

As the fish offal accumulates, it is carefully collected 
and transferred to old barrels set apart for that purpose. 
A barrel of herring offal realises from is. to is. 6d. per 
barrel. In the beginning of the season the farmers contract 
for a certain supply. Fish offal as a manure is now well 
known and appreciated as a good crop-raising stimulant. 
It is estimated that at the lowest possible over 75,000 
barrels were taken delivery of by farmers on the east coast 
of Scotland alone, and the money value thereof to be not 
less than 5000 sterling. In its raw state the offal is, in 
the event of its too heavy application to the soil, apt to 
"burn." To prevent this burning it is apparent that it 
must have a compost. Our fishing centres should not 
be without manufactories for the drying and com- 
pressing of offal with such composts as, say, peat-moss, 
road sweepings, fine ashes and cinders from gasworks, or 
even from the common ash-pits. The composts are easily 
obtained, would make a capital all round manure, and for 
cheapness hardly to be beaten. 

THE BRANDING SYSTEM HISTORY THE BRAND 
EXPLAINED STATISTICS QUALIFICATIONS. 

In the 36th clause of Act of Parliament, 1808, we first 
hear of a brand on herrings. The presentment of a barrel 
of herrings of sufficient merit to receive the branding 
stamp thereon entitled the curer to the sum of 2s. In 



28 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

1815, that sum was raised to 4^., and thereat remained till 
1830, at which date it was altogether withdrawn, but 
branding under the old regulations still continued. In 
1859, a Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry reported 
favourably on the brand, and gave it as their opinion that the 
system of branding was beneficial in the interests of the 
curers, was a great facilitator of business more especially 
in the foreign export trade and was likewise a guarantee 
for the contents of the barrel and also the quality of the 
fish therein. A fee of ^d. per barrel branded was then 
imposed, and remains in force at this present day. Only 
lately has the brand received another vote of confidence, as 
it were. I refer to the report of the Select Committee 
appointed by the House of Commons in March 1881, to 
enquire into the expediency of continuing the system of 
branding herrings, &c. Their voting was as 12 against 3 
that the brand was deserving of continuance. 

The brand is a guarantee that the barrel is of the legal 
standard measurement, and that the herrings, for quality, 
selection, and packing, are up to the requirements of the 
Scotch Fishery Board. The brand is given to only four 
selections, viz. fulls, matties, spents, and mixed. There 
are twenty-six districts, and the branding officers employed 
throughout the whole, in 1882, numbered thirty-seven. As 
branding is now extended to Shetland, whose rapid growth is 
so visibly apparent, an increase in the branding staff must 
necessarily take place. The herrings to be entitled to receive 
the brand must be properly cured and packed, and have lain 
in the barrel twelve* clear days from date of catch. The 
curer signs a request note to the ofHcer stating the number of 

* The Fishery Board stipulate that to receive the brand the 
herrings must have lain ten clear days, exclusive of catch and packing. 
I therefore feel justified in quoting twelve clear days from catch. 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 29 

barrels he desires branded. This has the officer's due 
attention. Previous to the examination of the "parcel," 
the officer receives a declaration to the effect that the 
herrings have been cured conformably to the regulations 
set forth, and also gets payment of the branding fees. He 
proceeds to examine the parcel, and to those entitled 
applies the branding stamp. The curer has had a fire 
prepared wherein to heat the officer's branding-iron, and 
when the iron is red-hot it is applied to the barrel, leaving 
an impression similar to the one here given. Every 
selection has a different stamp. 




The above is for Packed Matties, branded in 18-71, and 
the J J is the branding officer's initials. There is no brand 
given to the west coast herrings, nor is one required, as 
the herrings are not selected further than the curers deem 
expedient. Perhaps one-third may be selected, entitling 
them to the name of " prime " or " choice," the other two- 
thirds are packed promiscuously. 

That the brand is highly appreciated, and yearly 
gaining in appreciation, the following results will sufficiently 
prove. 



.23. 



30 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 







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CO CO CO 




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co O 
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. OO 00 ON 




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Barrels 


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THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 31 

The brand is an excellent trade-mark, and as such 
facilitates the buying and selling. This last year (1882) 
the buying and shipping of herrings was commenced and 
almost finished within a period of five months. The number 
of barrels exported is given as 782,2901- =(500 to 600 
cargoes, and a money value of over ; 1,000,000). These 
figures give but a vague estimate of the immense business 
effected in so short a time. Every barrel bearing the 
" brand " may be bought and sold by local buyers to con- 
tinental firms on the mere faith of the word " Crown- 
branded," and that also without any examination whatever 
as to the contents of the barrel and the quality of the fish. 
It is therefore plainly to be seen that the brand makes 
business transactions between the buyer and seller com- 
paratively easy. As a contrast, I may state that the 
unbranded herrings are never bought unless subject to 
inspection before accepting delivery, or failing that, the 
seller's guarantee as to quality. Opinions as to quality 
may differ widely, and therefore contracts for unbrands are 
not only dangerous but difficult in negotiation. Also, in- 
spection means labour. Labour is money. There is also 
time lost by seller and buyer. It is clear then that the 
brand is much to be esteemed, a valuable adjunct, and 
great facilitator of business, and it is to be hoped that the 
prestige it has given to the trade may never decline. 

For further and more explicit information concerning the 
brand I would recommend a perusal of the essay on the 
herring brand " Fish and Fisheries, 1882." 

BENEFICIAL RESULTS LOCAL TRADE RAILWAYS 
SHIPPING BANKS FOREIGN TRADE. 

The benefits derived from the Scotch herring fisheries 
are marvellous in extent and distribution grand in results, 

E 2 



32 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

and invaluable in wealth. Indirectly the shopkeepers of 
whatever nature in the herring districts are more or less 
influenced by its prosperity and continuance. In turn the 
merchants and manufacturers are benefited through the 
shops. An extensive and extending business means 
steady employment for manual labour, and by the necessity 
of supply so does the labourage increase. Directly, we 
have the fishermen and their families entirely dependent 
on the results; and labourers, gutters, coopers, builders, 
wood merchants, salt manufactures, railways, mercantile 
marine, banking, and in fact every trade and profession is 
receiving a support from this great industry. It is no 
exaggeration to say that the herring fishing is the great 
industry on whose success or decline the greater part of 
the Scotch east coast, Shetland, and the Hebrides hang 
their dependence. Any one acquainted with the Scotch 
coasts cannot fail to appreciate the great value of the 
herring fishing. 

The basket and net manufacturers have a large field for 
their output Every year there is a steady and heavy 
demand for baskets and nets. There are also the wood 
merchants at home and abroad being greatly benefited 
through the trade in supplying them with the different 
woods necessary for the making of barrels, as also the 
erecting of sheds and stores. Even the wood shavings or 
refuse find a good market with those curers who have kilns. 
Multiply the various instruments described under " plant " 
by 3000, and you will find that the instrument makers have 
to be exceedingly thankful for the trade. We must not lose 
sight of the great demand for wooden spades for the fisher- 
men, salt scoops for the . gutting women, gutting knives, 
hammers, nails, &c. Again, there is the tear and wear 
in the boat, frequently requiring repairs or improvements 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 33 

at the hands of a boat-builder, a replacing of worn-out 
ropes and sails and all boats' gear. The wood-hoop mer- 
chants find a profitable and extensive business. Builders 
of fishing boats have been kept exceedingly busy during 
the past ten years. We must take into consideration 
the great number of people employed by the merchants 
and manufacturers in the preparing of the articles requisite 
by their necessary assistance to the carrying on of fishing 
and fish curing, all of whom by the demand are enabled to 
earn good wages. Last, but not least, let us glance at the 
salt trade. The quantity of salt used yearly is about 
100,000 tons, and to the salt manufacturers gives a money 
value of from 5 5,000 to 60,000, nett, f.o.b., at places of 
shipment. The principal manufactories are represented 
at Runcorn or Liverpool, from whose docks the great 
bulk is shipped. I give this example to show that 
benefits are not confined locally, but here we have our 
sister country reaping benefit from the trade. 

Railway Companies are greatly benefited by the vast traffic 
caused by the herring trade during the season. There is the 
continual carrying of fresh herrings to the English markets ; 
the occasional transfer of barrels, for export, from the 
smaller fishing districts to Aberbeen or other large centres 
for steamer shipment ; the carriage of supplies of wood from 
our home merchants ; salt occasionally, hoops, plant, and, 
above all, the great passenger traffic consequent on the 
temporary but necessary removings of the fishermen and 
families for the east coast traffic alone. I estimate that the 
charges made by the railway companies for the carriage of 
wood, staves, hoops, salt, plant, and of passengers and their 
luggage and other necessaries, and of fresh and cured 
herrings, would be at the lowest not less than 75,000. 

Shipping has in the herring trade one of its greatest 



34 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING, 

supports. Calculating that the average export for the past 
ten years is 600,000 barrels yearly, that would give as 
from 500 to 600 cargoes yearly. The average freights to 
the five principal herring-receiving ports on the continent, 
viz. Hamburg, is. 8d. ; Stettin, 2s. ; Danzig, 2s. 2d. ; 
Konigsberg, 2s. $d. ; and Libau, is. lid. total average 2s. 
per barrel. The total export for 1882 is given as 782,290^ 
barrels, and therefore the gross freights would realise at 
the 2s. freight, 78,229 is. A significant fact, showing the 
great importance attached to the herring trade by those 
interested in shipping, is to be found in the marvellous 
rapidly increasing building of superior steamers especially 
adapted for the carrying of herrings. Vessels of about 
IOO tons register are those principally engaged in the 
trade, and are most suitable. 

The banks receive from the fishermen money on 
deposit at a moderate rate of interest (under 2-f- per cent, 
for the past few years), and through the great amount of 
business arising from the trade, and their getting the bank 
notes put into circulation, thereby receive a great assist- 
ance, and derive a considerable profit. I calculate the 
deposits by the Scotch fishermen to exceed 500,000. As 
shown in a calculation made later on in this essay, the cir- 
culation of notes would be over 1,000,000 yearly. The 
fish-curers, although turning over a large amount yearly, 
and thereby being instrumental in the banks' circulation, 
yet are more generally debtors than creditors of the banks. 
Their capital is soon absorbed in bounties and stock, and 
in too many instances they are pretty deep on the wrong 
side with the bank, but generally such is balanced by 
heritable or personal security. When the boats are paid 
off, heavy temporary overdrafts are required. The 
fish-curer's reputation and character is sufficient to procure 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 35 

that. For some time past the North of Scotland Bank, 
Limited, has been fully alive to this important industry, 
and to their credit they have been the means at various 
centres notably Fraserburgh by their monetary assist- 
ance to curers, of furthering the development, encouraging 
its continuance, and of making by its extension a prosperity 
so plainly discernable. A sufficient compensation is found 
against the risk in the excellent interest charged by the 
banks for their accommodations. 

The foreign export trade has now assumed an astonishing 
magnitude. It is not my intention to write regarding the 
trade in tinned herrings with Australia, or in red herrings 
with the Mediterranean countries, both of which are oi 
considerable importance, but are comparatively insignifi- 
cant as compared with the export of pickled herrings to 
Germany and Russia, of which I endeavour to make a 
few observations of interest. 

In the early part of this century the demand for our 
herrings in Germany was very limited indeed. For in- 
stance, up till 1850 the Danzig market was sufficiently 
supplied with a yearly import of about 10,000 barrels of 
Scotch herrings. We must remember, however, that 
Germany was the great emporium of Norwegian herrings, 
and it was only on the Scotch cure and catch attaining 
the supremacy over all other herring fisheries that the 
demand in Germany increased. For, as the demand and 
favour for Scotch herrings increased, the prices gradually 
did the same, and to counterbalance which we have ample 
evidence that the prices and favour for all other kinds 
of herrings imported gradually decreased in a corresponding 
ratio. 

There are four great herring centres in Germany, viz. 
Hamburg, on the Elbe ; Stettin, on the Oder; Danzig, on 



36 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

the Vistula ; and Konigsberg, on the Pregel ; and whose 
imports for 1881 and 1882 are as under : 





1881. 


1882. ' 


Stettin 


. 248,336 


> 267,107 


Hamburg . 


. H2,349 


,. 150,612 


Danzig 


;, . ' . . 127,138 


142,550 


Konigsberg 


. -..' . . 94,308 


101,995 



Total .. 582,131 662,264 

These figures show that these four centres alone receive 
about five-sixths of the total exports from Scotland, and 
the exportation statistics are here given showing the 
various quantities shipped from the several districts in the 
respective years : 





Barrels. 


Barrels. 


Stornoway .... 


25,038 


32,073 


Shetland .... 


47, .5941 


98,292 


Orkney .... 


5,990 


10,658! 


Wick . . 


55,335 


73,064 


Lobster ... 


. 17,183 .. 


2,912 


Helmsdale . 


. 15,085 


6,330! 


Cromarty .... 


746* .. 


2,205! 


Findhorn . - . * 


. 7,660 .. 


3,78l! 


Buckie . . . ' .. 


9,360! .. 


9,266! 


Banff 


25,080 


2 4, 131 


Fraserburgh 


. 165, 362^ .. 


178,136! 


Peterhead .... 


. 158,155 


156,026! 


Aberdeen .... 


. 83,206! '. . 


82,407 


Stonehaven . . , 


13,723 


7,359 


Montrose ... 


. 26,425! . . 


27,662! 


Leith . . .',.. 


35,i38i .. 


46,607 


Eyemouth . . . 


19,160! .. 


2i,377! 


Totals for the two years 


.. 710,244! 


782,290! 






710,244! 



Showing an increase for season 1882 of . . 72,046 



XI -23. 




THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 37 

A few of the other German ports are Harburg, Bremen, 
Liibeck, Pernau, and Memel, but they do not receive 
regular supplies. There are also numerous inland towns 
noted for their extensive transactions in herrings, the 
principal being Magdeburg, Halle, Leipzig, Breslau, Berlin, 
Frankfurt, Posen, and others of lesser note too numerous 
to mention. Russia seems, to give a preference to 
Norwegian and Swedish herrings, the duty on which is 
much lighter than that on the Scotch. The duty on 
Scotch herrings is by far too heavy. Nevertheless, Scotch 
herrings to a limited extent command good prices through 
such markets as Libau, Riga, and St. Petersburg. These 
three Russian centres have a fair share of our west coast 
herrings, but they only receive a stray cargo now and 
then from the east coast West coast and east coast early 
herrings, from their oily tendency, are in much demand at 
medium prices, but between the excessive charges and 
duty to be paid, the Russian people cannot afford to pay 
high prices. If the duty could be reduced to about level 
with the German, then an extended business would be the 
result ; in the meantime the Russian prices and currency 
are of so fluctuating a character, that our curers and buyers 
must be cautious in the trade with Russia. However, 
Libau is strengthening its connection with us, and proving a 
great rival to its German neighbouring centre Konigsberg. 
Odessa, in the Black Sea, has lately been doing a direct 
business principally through London agents and it is 
hoped that such business will rapidly extend itself in the 
future. A glance at the accompanying map will show the 
situations of the centres I have referred to, and how 
admirably they command the interior business throughout 
Germany, Austria, and Russia. 



38 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 



CONCLUSION HISTORY AND LEGISLATURE STATISTICS 
SHOWING PROSPERITY AND WEALTH MUCH REQUIRED 
AND EXPECTED IMPROVEMENTS REFERRED TO. 

There is very little authentic imformation to be had 
regarding the Scotch herring fisheries before the sixteenth 
century. Having gradually risen from obscurity by slow 
but steady degrees, it was then in importance in close 
rivalry with the Dutch. There is mention made of the 
fishings as early as the I3th and I4th centuries, and as 
in the I5th century it must have left its mark on some 
of the jold records of that time, surely, by diligent search- 
ing, some information might be got at once interesting and 
valuable. 

From 1630 to 1650 a further impetus was given to its 
prosecution, was successful, and apparently every year 
proved a steady increase. In 1676, a reaction set in, and 
its downward career was swift. The companies then in 
vogue were utterly quashed. However, private enterprise 
was quietly persevering, and thanks thereto, the herring 
fishing had by the end of the century actually got ahead 
of the Dutch. 

From 1695 to 1707 success attended the enterprise and 
efforts of improvement. But the next seven years again 
saw a retrograde period, and the fishing nearly ceased 
altogether. This probably principal national industry was, 
by the stupid and complicated regulations and laws of the 
Legislature immediately after the union, nearly suppressed, 
and that at a time when its supremacy over other nations 
was most promising. In the years 1714, 1720, 1727, 1750, 
bold attempts were made to revive the trade. Large 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 39 

companies were again established, backed up and assisted 
by the Government, but the expected great results were 
never realised. A better year happened to be i/57> an< ^ 
the fishings kept steady thereafter till 1767, after which 
came the periodical backwardness, culminating in 1782, 
when we read the total catch was only 12,522 barrels for 
that year. The legislation of 1808, on fishery laws and 
regulations, laid the foundation of all its future workings, 
and it is from this period that we have a continual and 
progressive success. Several excellent alterations and 
additions were made by the Act 55, Geo. III. 694, 
I4th June 1815, and about this time the east coast seemed 
to be endowed with a new life. Herring curing seemed 
prosperous, and the small coast villages in many cases in 
a few years grew into fair-sized and prosperous towns. 
Perhaps the best example is Fraserburgh. Twenty years 
ago an insignificant 'Burgh indeed, but at this day the 
Scotch herring capital. Built on and around Kinnaird 
Head, it has the command of the Moray Firth. To the 
south lies its beautiful bay. Jutting out from the Kinnaird 
Castle is the breakwater, extending south and at the 
middle south-east, and shelters the harbours and the bay. 
It is 810 yards in length, and its average thickness about 
30 feet. At its point there is a good lighthouse. The 
Balaklava Harbour at Fraserburgh is the largest herring 
boat harbour on the coast. It is 12% acres in extent. 

The growing importance of the herring fishing has caused 
several inquiries and commissions to take place, and the 
results have always tended to its well-being. I refer to 
such years as 1832, 1843, 1852, 1859, and the more modern 
but the most important of 1881. 

The following statistics show the total catch of herrings 



40 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

for the past twenty-six years, for the entire east coast 
including Shetland, Lewis, and Barra, viz. for 



1857 . . . 


329,251 crans. 


1869 . . . 403,633 crans. 


1858 . . . 


393,035 


1870 . . . 596,421 


1859 . . . 


302,943 


1871 ... 562,865 


1860 . . . 


463,100 


1872 . . . 562,737 


1861 . . . 


485,645 


1873 7H,7i7 


1862 . . . 


520,280 


1874 . . . 720,964 


1863 . . . 


439,2io 


1875 . . . 655,606 


1864 . . . 


432,064 


1876 . . . 406,440 


1865 ... 


395,157 ,, 


1877 . . . 561,439 


1866 . . . 


413,065 


1878 , . . 618,597 


1867 . . . 


474,098 


1879 . . . 516,406 


1868 . . . 


366,068 


1880 . . . 930,307 






1881. 1882. 






Crans. Crans. 


Stornoway . 


. 


. 41,950 45,980 


Shetland . 


. 


46,500 . . 102,250 


Orkney 




14,418 . . 16,018 


Wick . 


. 


. 61,742 .. 8l,792 


Lybster 


. 


. 16,688 .. 1,730 


Helmsdale . 




16,388 . . 6,404 


Cromarty . 


. 


1,638 .. 1,376 


Findhorn . 




6,890 . . 4,872 


Buckie 


. 


7,173 7,630 


Banff . 


. 


22,106 . . 23,003 


Fraserburgh 




. 132,642 .. 139,451 


Peterhead . 


. 


. 124,878 . . 124,185 


Aberdeen . 


. 


78,702 . . 80,363 


Stonehaven 


. 


. 19,355 .. 15,910 


Montrose . 




26,012 . . 28,820 


Leith . * 


* 


7,216 . . 3,660 


Eyemouth . 


. * . 


59,486 . . 59,825 






683,784 743,269 


Deduct season 1881 . . 683,784 


Showing an increase for season 1882 of . . 59,485 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 41 

And for the past five years the total catch at the individual 
stations : 



Stations and Districts. 


1878. 


1879. 


1880. 


1881. 


1882. 


WICK .... 


84,248 


63,094 


113,186 


55,542 


69,926 


Lybster and Clyth 


6,910 


9,240 


12,371 


15,231 


1,626 


Forse 


282 


620 


592 


219 


28 


Latheronwheel 


512 


790 


637 


1,237 


78 


Dunbeath . . . 


1,502 


2,800 


1,056 


1, 802 


504 


Helmsdale . . . 


7,600 


10,855 


10,285 


13,783 


3,920 


Portmahomack . 


858 


1,391 


1,790 


1,515 


i,376 


Burghead and) 
Hopeman . .) 


1,122 


3,009 


5,200 


3,090 


2,328 


Lossiemouth . . 


819 


4,896 


7,600 


3,800 


2,544 


Buckie District . 


2,864 


3,832 


12,413 


7,173 


7,630 


Portsoy .... 


4,935 


4,670 


6,950 


5,600 


4,650 


Whitehills . . . 


1,102 


1,610 


1,667 


840 


i,i74 


Banff 


2?O 


i -?6o 


I QI1 


1, 606 


3O7O 


Macduff. . . . 


my* 

4,756 


x > jr** 

7,384 


5 V L J 

8,530 


5,538 


> W J U 

9,762 


Gardenstown . . 


4,058 


7,007 


6,915 


7,685 


4,387 


Fraserburgh . . 


175,820 


105,037 


218,504 


132,613 


139,500 


Peterhead . . . 


122,456 


83,200 


177,300 


124,800 


124,185 


Aberdeen . . . 


69,231 


36,400 


78,810 


78,657 


80,253 


Stonehaven . . 






.. 




15,910 


Montrose District 


26,758 


30,048 


54,091 


45,352 


28,820 


Anstruther 


3,975 


6,490 


7,840 


3,660 


3,H5 


Leith to D unbar . 


1,500 


5,460 


4,600 


4,110 


2,722 


Eyemouth District 


25,407 


52,149 


48,715 


59,486 


59,825 


Orkney .... 


14,722 


8,364 


16,142 


14,418 


16,160 


Shetland . . . 


6,240 


6,700 


38,700 


46,250 


102,000 


Lewis and Barra . 


50,670 


60,000 


94,500 


41,100 


45,240 



Stonehaven has been this year disjoined from the 
Montrose district, and erected into a separate station. 
In the foregoing tables we therefore give the results for 
1 882 separately, although for the previous years they are 
all included in the Montrose district. 



42 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

A perusal of the foregoing statistics will prove that 
although yearly fluctuations have taken place, yet that 
every periodical decade proves that the prosperity as 
regards the catch is steadily on the increase. The quality 
and selection have also much improved, thanks to wise 
regulations and our national characteristic intrepidity. 
The prices also are year by year becoming more firm, 
are less speculative, fluctuate less than in former years, 
and are now entirely regulated according to supply and 
demand. The supply, apparently always increasing, is at 
the present moment very great, but it is pleasing to state 
that the demand is proportionally quite as great and strong. 

In recapitulation, the following calculations are here 
given to show the reader some idea as to the wealth of the 
herring trade. 

CAPITAL. 



Fishermen's boats, all necessary gear included 

6131 boats at ^275 per boat 1,686,025 

6131 boats' " fleets " of nets at Jos. per net, allowing 

25 nets to each boat 536,432 

Fish-curer's invested capital, lowest estimate . . . 720,000 

Total . . ,2,942,457 

ONE YEAR'S BUSINESS (1882). . 

s - 
Bounties paid to fishermen 

6131 boats at ^40 per boat 245,240 o 

Prices paid to fishermen for herrings 

743,269 crans at average of 1 8 s. per cran . . 668,942 2 

1 67 new boats, with all necessary gear, at $ 1 o per boat 5 1 , 770 o 

1 67 new " fleets " of nets 30 per boat, at 70^. per net . I 7>535 o 

For new nets distributed amongst the fleet . . . 15,000 o 
Lowest estimate for repairs on the fleet (paid to boat- 
builders, rope and sail makers, block and tackle 

manufacturers, Cutch dealers, &c.) . . . 12,500 o 

Total paid " to " and " by " fishermen .. 1 ,010,987 2 



THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 43 

Fish-curer's outlay, interest on capital, rent of yard, 
plant, stock and work, wages to coopers, gutters, 
labourers, cartage, shore dues. Equal to about 
8s. 6d. per barrel . . . . . . ,394,862 

Fish-curer's income return for herrings 

743,269 crans = 929,086 barrels at 30^. per barrel 1,393,628 

We must not forget that the fishermen own seven- 
eighths of the houses they inhabit, and also, that they are 
heavy depositors with our Scotch banks. Many of the 
fish-curers are affluent, and possess both money and 
property. Likewise, the Scotch buyers for foreign export, 
who may be said to turn over once more the great money 
circulation of this trade. 

Of the much required and expected improvements, it is 
apparent that harbour accommodation is the most needed. 
It is gratifying to note that the surplus branding fees 
are to be devoted in that improvement, and that a large 
Government grant may be shortly expected for an east 
coast harbour of refuge. Whilst large centres are receiv- 
ing every assistance, even at present, there are small centres 
who receive little or none. Some are most deserving, and 
ready to spring into a new energetic life whenever they get 
a new harbour, or an extension. 

With a rapidity quite amazing, the improvements in our 
boats, gear, and nets, have sprung into force within the 
past dozen of years. The herring fishing is year by year 
being prosecuted further from the shore, and large and 
finer sea-going boats are becoming necessary. If such 
continues, to prevent the quality of the fish retrograding, 
the application of steam to our fishing boats will be 
necessary. Already I can see symptoms of an east coast 
steamboat herring fishing. 



44 THE SCOTCH EAST COAST HERRING FISHING. 

Last, but not least, comes the great necessity for 
improving the social condition of our fishermen, and 
especially of providing suitable and proper accommodation 
for them at the herring centres. I sincerely hope that 
circumstances may arise at an early date that will demand 
an inquiry, the result of which will tend to the much 
needed rectification of a backward mode of living. A very 
slight monetary expenditure and a few forcible regulations 
are all that is requisite to right this matter. The success of 
the trade is due in a great measure to the fishermen anp 
their steady enterprise, but they have nearly gone as far 
as they can ; at least, it is not their business to provide 
temporary residences at every place they may go to fish. 
It must therefore lie with the curers (employers), or through 
Government agency to provide the needful. Our fishing is 
progressive, so let us hope that our fishermen will also be 
so. Progress the watchword, and Prosperity the result. 



LONDON: PRINTBD BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS^ LIMITED, 

STAMFORD STREET AND CHARlNli CROSS. 



International Fisheries Exhibition 

LONDON, 1883 



MACKEREL AND PILCHARD 
FISHERIES 



BY 

THOMAS CORNISH 



LONDON 
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED 

INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES EXHIBITION 
AND 13 CHARING CROSS, S.W. 

1883 



LONDON: 
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITBD, 

STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS. 



International Fisheries Exhibition 

LONDON, 1883 



CONFERENCE ON 13 JULY, 1883. 



Sir JOHN ST. AUBYN, Bart, M.P., in the Chair. 



THE CHAIRMAN, in introducing Mr. Cornish, said he had 
come at the request of the Executive Committee to tell 
them something about a subject on which most people 
knew comparatively little. Whilst almost everybody in 
the room was more or less intimately acquainted with the 
mackerel, there were very few, except those who lived in 
Cornwall, on the west coast of Ireland, and on the coast 
of Brittany, who knew anything about the pilchard ; but 
they might take it on his authority that the pilchard was a 
most excellent fish when eaten fresh, and when preserved, 
either after the manner of sardines in oil, or salted for 
exportation, it formed a most nutritious and excellent 
article of diet. The Cornish fishermen were employed to 
a very large extent both in the mackerel and pilchard 
fisheries, and went out a considerable distance from the 
shore in quest of these fish. They met with the mackerel 
at spring-time at a distance varying from close in-shore, to 
sixty, seventy, or one hundred miles out, and twenty-four 
hours after they were caught, people in London were in a 
position to judge of the result by seeing the mackerel on 
the slabs of fishmongers. A pilchard was a different sort 

[3] B 2 



of fish altogether. It did not readily bear carriage, but 
had to be eaten as soon as possible after it was out of the 
water, and consequently the great trade in pilchards was 
when they were salted or preserved in oil. He could not 
give the statistics of the men, boats, and capital employed, 
but, to give some idea of the magnitude of the fisheries, he 
might mention that, in his own immediate neighbourhood, 
the water on which he could look down from his own 
windows contained within two and a half miles a fleet of 
something like four hundred boats, with all kinds of nets 
and gear and other appliances, representing a capital of 
something like ; 140,000. If a proportional amount of 
capital and men were employed in other parts of the 
country, it could readily be seen how important those 
fisheries were. They were not only important as a means 
of providing food, but formed an excellent nursery and 
school for a race of seamen than whom there were none, 
either in this kingdom or anywhere else in Europe, more 
industrious, steady, independent or courageous. 



MACKEREL AND PILCHARD FISHERIES. 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, The honour has been done 
me of requesting me to read a Paper before you on the 
" Mackerel and the Pilchard," and I presume that this has 
been done, because I come from West Cornwall, the 
principal English home of the fisheries for these two fish, 
and am well acquainted with them ; but my ignorance 
makes it advisable that I should confine my remarks to the 
familiar facts which I know of these fish in my own 
county, rather than attempt to deal with the subject 
scientifically. 



The mackerel is the head, or typical fish, but one of the 
smallest in size, of a large family, which has representatives 
in every sea in the world, except in the regions of extreme 
cold, and every member of which is excellent as food. 

The first distinguishing mark of the family to an outside 
observer is a tail having a peculiar fork. You can see it in 
a moment in the fish market here. The next is the 
cleanness of the lines on which the fish is built. The long 
conical forepart of the body and snout, the smooth round 
body, and the clean run of the afterpart, all fit the fish for 
rapid propulsion through the water, whilst the powerful 
forked tail, working with much less opposition to the water 
than would a rounded tail, and precisely with the action 
with which the sailor sculls his boat by one oar over the 
stern, enables the fish to make the greatest possible use of 
the advantages of its shape. The last distinguishing exterior 
feature which I shall notice is the existence between the 
base of the tail fin, and the hindmost upper and under fins, 
and both above and below the body, of a series of little 
soft rudimentary fins, called finlets, and the use of which is 
obscure. This family includes the bonitos, the tunnies, the 
albacores, and other Mediterranean fish, all occasional 
visitants of our Western seas, and just excludes (if, indeed, 
it does exclude, for I, who have seen the fish, am not clear 
about it,) the Northern " opah," a noble great fellow, some 
four to five feet long, which would more than cover an 
ordinary card -table, and is a very Assyrian for "gleaming 
in purple and gold," being in fact almost the only northern 
fish which excels in splendour of colour the fish of the seas 
of the temperate zones and the tropics. I do not at this 
moment recollect whether there is a specimen of this fish 
in the building. If there is, you will find it in the court of 
Norway or possibly of Denmark. 



But, of all the family, the mackerel is the most fitted for 
rapid propulsion and has the most powerful tail ; and this, 
you know, means the greatest power of propulsion, for the 
sole natural propulsive power of every fish lies in its tail. 
I once proved this beyond question, thus : We stay in 
summer in a house so close to the sea that we are in our 
boat within a minute of our leaving our front door, and we 
have there a pill, or salt water pool, in the rocks, about 
thirty feet long by ten wide by three deep, which is left by 
the tide for about six hours in every tide, and into this pool 
we put the fish which we bring in alive from our trammels 
every morning, and watch them until we want them. 

I have watched an octopus in that pool many times. But 
once I cut off the tail of a fish, a pollock I think, and I 
put it in this pool. At first the fish did not realise its loss, 
and we saw the stump of its tail working, but the other fins 
were, as usual, only balancing the fish. There was no 
progression. After a while the fish stopped working the 
stump of the tail, and lay simply balanced. About an hour 
afterwards I came back to it, and it was slowly progressing by 
using its pectoral fins (those next behind the gills) as oars. 
I had seen all I wanted to know, and had ascertained that 
the tail fin was the fin of propulsion, that the fish had sense 
enough to find out when it had lost it, and reason enough 
to adapt its pectoral fins to a use for which they were never 
intended. I then killed the fish, but my conscience did not, 
nor does it, accuse me of any cruelty towards it. It showed 
no symptoms of pain. Indeed, of all the very many 
thousands of fish that I have seen die, I never saw one show 
symptoms of pain. The nearest approach to it has occurred 
in the crimping of skate immediately on its being taken out 
of the water. The crimping is done by drawing a sharp 
knife in three cuts to the bone, on each side of and parallel 



to the back-bone. The fish writhes under the knife, but 
from muscular action, I think, more than from pain, and 
before the last cut is given it is dead. And this, in my 
opinion, is a much more merciful way of dealing with the 
skate, than allowing it to lie suffocating in the bottom of 
your boat for the hour which it occupies in dying that way. 
I know many good people say that we should kill our fish 
as we catch them. If we could, we would, for they would 
be so much the better for the table, but in most kinds of 
sea fishing this is utterly impossible. Take a mackerel 
seine for instance. A tolerably successful haul ought to 
produce at least 2,000 fish. After the haul commences, 
everything depends on the speed with which it is completed. 
Every hand on board the boat is at it, and in a few minutes 
the 2,000 fish are spluttering about in the bottom of the 
boat. I once took upwards of 6 cwt. of fish, principally 
skate, on a long line of 500 hooks (i.e. 500 fathoms) stretched 
along the bottom of the sea in shallow water, in one haul. 
The whole hauling had to be done with the least possible 
stoppage, and at times the fish came so fast, that the 
boatmen attending on me had not time to unhook them, 
and had to cut away the snoodings. The fish had to lie in 
the bottom of the boat and die, we could not stop to kill 
them. And in the end I found that the line had cut my 
two forefingers almost to the bone. The fish were crueller 
to me that day than I was to the fish. 

Whether viewed for its colour or its form, the mackerel 
is one of the most beautiful of English fish. I need not 
describe it to you. Doubtless its form is familiar to you 
all. And if it is not you have only to go into the fish- 
market here and see it in -as much perfection as it can 
retain after a long journey. Beautiful as the mackerel on a 
London fishmonger's stall is, much more beautiful is it as it 



8 

comes out of the water alive. There is, in the best 
mackerel, an iridescent, rosy tint under the gills and forepart 
of the body, which I have seen in fish here, but which is 
much more conspicuous when they are taken. And it is 
this colour by which our fishermen judge their fish. They 
say, " Red mackerel is good mackerel ; white mackerel is 
mackerel ; green mackerel is poison." 

And in this last remark they are quite correct. When- 
ever a green hue supersedes the rosy, the flesh of the fish 
when eaten will, with very many people, produce most 
unpleasant symptoms of blood poisoning ; and as these 
green mackerel are taken amongst the others at all times of 
the year, they give the fish a bad name, and cause people 
to abuse the whole family, when the truth is that they 
ought to have made a better selection. 

An average mackerel weighs i^ Ibs., which gives about 
1, 500 fish to the ton. Large fish go to 2 Ibs. or even 2\ Ibs. 
but they are rare, and as they do not sell for more than the 
others, are reserved by the fishermen for presents to their 
friends, which starts another of our West Cornwall notions 
that " you should never eat a mackerel unless it is given to 
you." This saying is quite understood in West Cornwall 
now, but in process of time it will very probably get to be 
understood there, as meaning that it is unlucky to buy 
mackerel, and if that belief once gets about, well, we are a 
superstitious people, and you ladies and gentlemen in 
London will have a large addition to your supply of 
that fish from Cornwall. 

These large mackerel are usually females, with roes ready 
to be shed, and are known as Queen mackerel and King 
mackerel, but I do not recollect ever seeing a large male 
mackerel of this sort. 

Sometimes one is startled by an announcement in the 



papers that a mackerel of six or even eight pounds weight 
has been caught, but in every instance in which I have 
been able to make inquiries the fish has turned out to 
belong to an allied species the short finned tunny which 
sometimes herds with the mackerel. 

There is one fact about the personal history of this fish, 
which I will mention although I know I do it at the risk of 
having my veracity suspected ; but I narrate only what I 
have seen over and over again, have repeatedly shown to 
my friends, and am prepared to show in the cases of two 
fish out of three, to any one of you who will call on me at 
Penzance and go out and catch mackerel with me. The 
mackerel, like the turbot, requires, and has, enormous 
muscular power at the tail to give the fail-fin its full 
advantages. In the turbot the fishermen recognise this 
fact and say that the turbot has a "second heart," and, as 
soon as they can, after they have caught one, they, at least 
in our parts, " bleed it," that is, make an incision on the 
line of the lateral line on the white near the tail, which cuts 
into this "second heart," and from which the fish bleeds 
freely. They have an impression that it whitens the white. 
Now, for my mackerel. The strongest and most muscular 
fish are those which wander about by themselves, and take 
surface bait, and it is on these only that my experiment 
has been tried. Take one of these immediately it comes 
into your boat, and, at once, without injuring it more than 
is necessary, prepare it for the gridiron just as your cook 
would, and lay it on the deck of the boat. In a short time 
a muscular action will develop itself in the tail, and 
the disembowelled fish will turn a clear summersault, some- 
times two, and occasionally three, and will then become 
quiet after a convulsion in which every fin vibrates. Like 
many other discoveries this one was made by accident ; but I 



10 

call your attention to the fact that very much the same sort of 
thing happens in the case of a common snake killed, and 
dead beyond all question, but in which a muscular action 
goes on for hours, and gives rise to the common idea that 
a snake never dies until sunset. And I think our medical 
men can tell us that a very strong muscular action oc- 
casionally takes place in the human body after death from 
some particular convulsive diseases. 

Taking the season through, a mackerel is worth two pence 
at the boat's side, and, with that fact before you, I leave 
you to judge how much the railway carrier and the fish- 
monger between them get out of the consumer. 

Of course the price varies from day to day. Within the 
last month I have known mackerel selling at the boat's side 
for two and six pence per one hundred and twenty, or just 
one farthing per fish ; and a boat with a catch of eight 
hundred threw them all overboard rather than come into 
harbour and pay her quay dues. On the other hand I have 
seen them selling at the boat's side at one shilling per fish. 

The mackerel fishery of Cornwall is a very old one. The 
fish itself was known in our seas very long ago, for it has a 
name in the old Cornish language (" brithel "), but it was 
but a small affair until railways opened up our markets in 
1859. I find that in 1808 we were sending mackerel from 
Penzance to Portsmouth in sailing cutters, but the record 
does not say in what condition they arrived there. It was 
probably fortunate for their owners that there were no 
Sanitary Inspectors about the markets in those days. 

At this time, the fleet employed on the fishery in Cornwall 
consists of about 400 sails of luggers of about 15 to 18 tons 
burden, excellent sea-boats (of which many models are to 
be seen on the Cornwall stall in the British Fisheries Gallery) , 
costing, when the nets are on board, six hundred pounds 



each. They are capable of going closer to the wind than 
any ordinary yacht. The spread of canvas they make is, 
as you can see for yourselves, enormous, and they will live 
in exceedingly heavy weather ; but they give in sometimes. 
Three years ago the boat Jane succumbed to a fearful 
cross sea, and sank within two hundred yards (one hundred 
fathoms) of Penzance pierhead, and drowned her crew of six 
men and a boy, not only within sight of their own homes, 
but within sight of their wives and children, who knew what 
boat she was. But even in that case, the men who knew 
said she was lost because she had not sufficient canvas on 
her to force her through the sea. 

If one of these boats is overpowered by the sea, she 
takes down her spars and makes them and her nets and 
such of her sails as she can afford to risk into a kind of 
raft, under the slight shelter of which she rides out the 
gale ; but you will find on the " Cornwall Stall " a sugges- 
tion for a very great improvement in this method. The 
exhibitor is a Cornishman, and he calls it a " floating 
anchor." It consists of a beam of timber to which is 
attached a large square piece of canvas, to which is attached 
another beam of timber from which there trails away a 
perforated zinc can which finds its place, when at work, in 
the cavity of a cone made of canvas, fastened to a wooden 
hoop. When the boat is storm-pressed she lowers her 
masts, heads up to wind, and hoists the whole machine 
out ahead of her and makes fast to the first beam ; and 
then, being deeper in the water than the machine, she 
drifts astern and down the wind towing the anchor, the 
outer beam of the anchor stretches the canvas sheet, and is 
assisted in doing this by the cone which it is dragging mouth 
foremost. The cone meanwhile is receiving from the zinc 
can, oil which exudes from it, and which the cone itself sends 



12 

out in a fan shape. Thus, an advancing wave first meets 
the oil, of the effect of which we have heard so much 
lately. It then meets, and perhaps breaks against the 
forward beam, and then has to pass under or fall on the 
sheet and in any case will reach the boat in a very 
enfeebled condition. I find practical men are speaking 
very well of this invention. 

Each of our boats carries a crew of seven men and a 
boy (the latter usually a relative of one of the crew), and is 
owned by a practical fisherman very frequently by the 
master or his father and is worked on the share system, 
under which each man brings a certain number of nets on 
board, and the proceeds of each season are shared in a 
peculiar and complicated way between the boats, the crew, 
and the nets. We have no large boat-owners and no 
boat-owning companies. This state of affairs produces 
results which, like many other things in Cornwall, are 
peculiar to the county. When the Commissioners came 
down last year on the inquiry as to 

Cruelty to fisherboys. 

The prevention of desertion, and 

The method of paying wages. 

we satisfied them that under our system there was, in our 
fisheries : 

No cruelty to fisherboys. 

No desertion self-interest preventing it. 

No disputes as to wages. 

This last thing puzzled the Commissioners most of 
all. After the meeting two fishermen and myself were 
standing in the lobby when the Chairman came to us and 
said : 

" I am satisfied you have no disputes about wages, but I 
cannot make out how it is done." And I turned to one of 



13 

the fishermen and said, "Tell the gentleman how it is 
done," and he said, " We leave all that to the women." 

It will be seen from the numbers which I have given, 
that our mackerel fishery gives employment to about 3,000 
men and boys, who, between the month of February when 
the season begins and June when it ends, usually catch 
about 4,000 tons of fish, which will give six millions of 
individuals. As soon as our mackerel season is over the 
pilchard season begins, and when it ends, our fleet sails 
for the Irish fishery, the Plymouth fishery, or the East coast 
of England fisheries ; for they can go anywhere. One 
once reached Australia safely, but now, in these days 
when 14 foot punts cross the Atlantic, that is no great 
feat. 

Still, in 1854, when the Mystery, of 36 foot keel and 
about 1 5 tons burden made her voyage, no boat of her size 
had ever attempted to deal with the Atlantic Ocean since 
the Caravel, which was the smallest of the little fleet of 
Columbus, had done so 350 years before, and she was 
in company with large vessels, and therefore the voyage 
of the Mystery remains noteworthy. This solitary boat 
sailed from Mount's Bay on the i8th November, 1854, and 
reached Melbourne on the I4th March, 1855, after a 
voyage of 117 days. She had a crew of seven men and 
carried her nets. I have recovered the log which was kept 
on board of her,* and, judging from it, a more dreary 
voyage than hers was never made. Beyond sighting a few 
ships and a few albatrosses, and being feted at Table Bay, 
nothing seems to have occurred of more importance than 
" the broaching of the second barrel of pork," until they were 
nearing Australia, and then, for a short time, things got 
exciting, and they met with weather which made them ride 
* Kindly lent to me by Mrs. Boase,the widow of the seaman who kept it. 



to a raft in the way which I have described, and which they 
describe. 

Thus, on 1 8th February, 1855, the Log says : 

Sunday, February i8t/i, 1855. 

Lat. by acct. 40 5' S. ; Long. 81 25' E. 
A.M. Strong gales with heavy sea running. 
4 A.M. Gale still increasing, handed the foresail and set a 

reef second mizzen forward. 
6 Terrific gale with a tremendous heavy sea running, 

and carried away the second mizzen yard. Brought 

the ship head to wind and hove a raft out. 
6*30 A.M. Split the third mizzen, unbent it, and bent the 

new one. 
8 Gale still increasing, with more sea and heavy 

rain. 

NOON. Ditto, weather. 
3 P.M. Less wind and sea, made sail, set reef second mizzen 

forward. 
MIDNIGHT. Strong squally weather. 



Friday, February i^rd, 1855. 

2 P.M. Gale fast increasing. 

4 A complete hurricane, with mountains of sea and 

very heavy rain. Brought the ship head to wind. 

Ship riding very easy to a raft prepared for the 

purpose. 
7 Rather less wind. Veering to the westward, hauled 

the raft on board, made sail, set reef second mizzen 

forward. 

Saturday, February 24^, 1855. 
A.M. Strong winds with a heavy sea on. 
4 Moderating, set storm foresail and jib ; squared. 



8 P.M. Light airs and cloudy, all possible sail set. 

10 Heavy rain. Wind inclined northerly. 

NOON. Jibed ship. Lat. by acct. 40 S. ; Long, by acct. 

101 E. 

P.M. Wind veering all round the compass, with heavy 
showers of snow and sleet. 

3 P.M. Set the jib. 

4 More wind, took in the large sails and set storm 

foresail and third mizzen. 

5 Heavy gusts of wind and rain, ship running under 

bare poles. 

6 Set reef second mizzen forward. 

7 . Very heavy squalls. Hauled down second mizzen. 

8 Set second mizzen. 

10 ., Down sail. 

1 1 Set it again. 

MIDNIGHT. Very strong squally weather. 

Monday, March $th, 1855. 
AM. Strong gale, with mountains of sea. Ship running 

under reef second mizzen forward. Shipping a great 

quantity of water on deck. 

4 P.M. Gale increasing with a great deal more sea. 
6 P.M. Complete hurricane. Brought the ship head to 

wind, riding very easy, raft prepared for the 

purpose. 
MIDNIGHT. Very heavy weather, with a high sea running. 

Tuesday, 6th March, 1855. 

A.M. A terrific gale of wind, it being the heaviest that 
we have experienced since leaving England. Our 
gallant little boat rides the mountains of sea remark- 
ably well, not shipping any water whatever, having 
dry decks fore and aft. I am confident that she is 



i6 

making better weather at present than a great many 
ships would if here. 
4 A.M. Heavy gust of wind. 

8 More moderate. 

9 Hauled the raft on board, made sail, set reef second 

mizzen forward. 

NOON. Very strong weather. Lat. by observation, 40 S. 
Long, by chronometer, 131 E. 

Saturday, lot h March, 1855. 
A.M. Very heavy gale with a high sea running, ship riding 

very easy to a raft. 

8 A.M. Ditto Weather ; repairing the second mizzen. 
NOON. Rather less wind and sea. Lat. by observation, 

38 39' S. ; Long, by chronometer, 140 45' E. 
6 P.M. Hauled the raft on board ; made sail, set storm 

sails. 

10 Moderating fast. 

11 Made the Australian land between Cape Northum- 

berland and Cape Bridgwater. Tacked ship. Wind 
off the shore. 
MIDNIGHT. Very fine weather. 

The log does not state her rate of sailing, but I learn 
from Mr. J. C. James, who is related to one of the crew, 
that curing one period of twenty-four consecutive hours 
she made eight knots, which is the equivalent of something 
like nine and a half miles per hour. 

Our men, when on the home mackerel fishery, sell their 
fish to buyers who are sent down by the large London 
and other houses for the purpose in a very primitive but 
very effective fashion. The auctioneer takes his station on 
the beach in the early morning with the buyers around him. 



17 

A boat appears in the offing, and signals her number and the 
number of fish she has. The auctioneer announces both, 
and, if the bidding is slack, chucks a stone into the air. 
The buyers have to bid before that stone falls. If a bid 
comes, another stone is chucked up, and so on. And as the 
boats do not all arrive at the same time, this method 
conduces to much speculation. 

Sometimes the fleet puts into Scilly, and sends the catch 
to the mainland by steamer. Then the market is steadier, 
because the total of the catch is known by telegraph ; but 
scenes of wild excitement take place. The early boats 
unload and pack their fish and stow the baskets on board 
the steamer, but the late boats crowd round the steamer, 
which is a mail boat and bound to time, and simply unload 
their fish on to her decks. These fish are packed on the 
way over by men working against time. I came over in the 
steamer once when she had more than 60,000 fish on board, 
and I watched the packing of more than 1 5,000 of them, 
which had been thrown loose upon her deck, after which I 
considered I could say that I knew mackerel when I saw it. 
It was on a hot summer's day, and as the steamer rolled to 
the Land's End seas, the packers were constantly ankle- 
deep in blood and slush. 

One result of this investigation was the certain conclusion 
that the " scribbled mackerel " and " dotted mackerel " of 
Couch (British Fishes) were only accidental varieties of the 
common mackerel. 

Strictly speaking the mackerel is not a migratory fish. 
It is in our seas all the year round, but in the season which 
I have mentioned February to June it, for some unknown 
purpose, crowds from the deep sea inshore. By day, during 
this season, it swims in scools or shoals, and by night it 
makes a formation in loose order, probably for the purpose 
[3] c 



i8 

of feeding ; but it never pursues, as true migrants do, any 
settled route. The fishermen have to search for their fish 
day by day. In the day-time the fish are taken by the 
scool or shoal in shallow water by the seine net, a net shot 
ahead of and around them. In the night-time they are 
taken by the drift-net, a net shot over the boat's side, 
and fastened at one end to the drifting boat, which goes 
with the wind or tide or both as may happen. The fleet 
represents a capital of about 240,000, the property of 
bond fide fishermen, and certainly deserves the protection 
which it requires. The drifters are much put upon by 
trawlers. These latter drive in hours which belong to the 
former. Trawling is a day fishery ; driving is a night 
fishery, and every now and then the slow moving, helpless, 
illegally fishing trawler comes across the nets of the equally 
helpless but legally fishing driver and carries them away. 
This happens in the night time ; the driver never has a punt 
with her and cannot ascertain the trawler's number. In 
fact she does not know that the mischief is done until she 
hauls her nets, and she has no remedy. I have known 
400 of damage done to the drivers in this way in a single 
week. The thing could be easily prevented ; a gunboat 
or even a Government cutter cruising on the fishing-ground 
during the two months in Spring in which the mischief 
happens, would stop the whole thing. Some years since we 
had reasons for expecting to see that gunboat come round 
the Lizard every day for three seasons in succession, but she 
never came, and we gave up expecting her. 

There is another matter in connection with our Mount's 
Bay fleet, and I believe it affects also some of the other 
fleets, which I think may interest you. Just before the 
Jane, of which I spoke just now, was lost, a Mutual 
Fishing Boat Insurance Club was started for the Mount's 



19 

Bay fleet. But we had then lost no boats lately, and our 
men were indifferent about it, and the thing fell flat. Only 
seven boats were entered in it. It happened that the 
Jane, and two other boats, partially wrecked in the same 
storm, were in it, and the club was ruined. The public 
generously gave us over 2,000 to provide for the widows 
and orphans of the crew of the Jane, and to repair 
damages generally. Out of this fund we provided liberally 
for the widows and orphans, and we then paid to the club 
enough to enable it to meet the demands on it, and we then 
distributed the remainder of the fund amongst the other 
owners whose boats had sustained damage, with the distinct 
assurance that if they did not put their boats in the club no 
one would ever again stir a finger to help them in case of 
accident The Cornish fisherman is not behindhand in 
taking a hint, and I believe every boat in the bay is now in 
the club, even before she is launched. I certainly do not wish 
to see any club make its prosperity by such a fearful 
experience as that which set up ours, but I shall be most 
happy to send the rules of the club to any one interested 
in the matter. The general outline is just this : nets are not 
insurable (for want of that gunboat.) The surveyor of the 
club examines each boat entered and reports on her value, 
and she is then insured in two-thirds of her survey value. 
Losses are made good by the levy of a rate on all owners 
of boats in the club at the time of the loss, and no loss is 
made good which is occasioned by any neglect to observe 
the Board of Trade Rules. 

I wish to call your attention to a great advantage which 
this Exhibition will certainly confer on Cornwall. Mackerel 
shoal in deep water as well as in shallow. Our desideratum 
for a long time past has been a seine which can capture the 
deep water shoals. A gentleman named Cox, a Cornishman, 

C 2 



20 

has invented a seine of which a model is in the middle of 
our Cornwall stall (it is the one which has the weight 
attached to it), which he says can be worked at deep sea 
shoals of fish ; and curiously enough, a model of a second 
seine on the same principle, but differing a little in detail, is 
exhibited on the same stall by Mr. Moses Dunn, of Fowey, 
and a third by Mr. Barren of Mevagissey. Practical men 
saw these models, both before they came here and since, 
and pronounced them very pretty little toys, which might 
succeed in a fish pond, but utterly unfit for use at sea. 
Now a full seine costs a large sum of money, and no 
hard-headed capitalist is likely to lay it out on a specu- 
lation which the practical men tell him must fail. Well, the 
nets come here, and to them came an American gentleman 
and he said, " You have the precise principle on which we 
are working deep-sea seines in America, and they succeed 
admirably." 

There is another point which I must not overlook. There 
is an idea of great antiquity, and very generally entertained, 
that mackerel must always be fresh to be good. It is 
perfectly true that mackerel is in its perfection when cooked 
as soon as captured, but if that cannot be done it is like most 
other fish, none the worse for a little keeping. And it is for 
this reason, and because ice takes the flavour out of the fish, 
that I consider dry packing (ie., packing fish-upon-fish 
without ice) preferable to packing in ice; it injures the 
flavour less. But there is another view to be taken. This 
fish is eminently amenable to the action of antiseptics. 
The smallness and fineness of its scale causes an antiseptic 
bath to act upon its skin and gilled surfaces with marked 
effect. I once received two of the large mackerel of which 
I have spoken, which had been caught off the Scilly Isles 
on a Monday night in the month of June (I believe, at all 



21 

events in the height of summer) ; I received them in their 
natural state on Tuesday evening, and put them into a bath 
formed by the solution of some antiseptic in powder, which 
the late Mr. Frank Buckland had procured for me. The 
bath totally destroyed the beauty of colours of the fish, 
and turned them into a dirty brown, but I ate one of those 
fish on the Saturday after in perfectly good condition and 
flavour, and I could have eaten the other in the same state, 
so far as the flesh went, on the Saturday after that again, 
but the flies had got at the gills, and the idea was distasteful. 
I wrote for some more of the disinfectant, and the reply that 
I got was that the company was in liquidation, and that I 
could have the patent for .1,000 ; so I thought no more of 
the matter and have forgotten the name of the disinfectant. 
I only mention the matter to show of what service antiseptics 
may be. 

The drift fishery of which I have been speaking is the 
principal mackerel fishery now, and supplies us with 
practically the whole of this fish. The few thousand 
mackerel taken at present each year in seines are wholly 
absofbed in strictly local markets. The mackerel takes 
bait, but, generally speaking, shyly. Every five or six 
years they turn up in large shoals, which are intensely 
localised, in the autumn and for about two hours a day, in 
the evening, for a week or ten days, take surface bait 
greedily. I, myself, once cruising backwards and forwards 
over a little patch of ground (where a shoal of this sort had 
located itself), for about two hours between five and eight 
on each evening, for four days in August month, took, on a 
whiffing or light hand-line and on a hook baited with a 
strip cut from an old white kid glove, over three hundred 
fish. I have known the mackerel to be in shoals in 
December, but this is rare. When they do occur in 



22 

that month they arc small but in excellent condition as 
food. 

Before I pass away from the mackerel, on which I have 
detained you a great deal too long, I wish to tell you of 
another discovery of mine, which no doubt equally affects 
all fish ; but as my observation of it was made on mackerel, 
I confine my narrative to that fish. Its habit of shoaling 
in the daytime taught me the curious fact that the shoal 
leaves behind it a distinct scent in the water, and that there 
are other inhabitants of the sea who quite understand 
what that scent means, and utilize it. 

A shoal of fish in the water looks, at a distance, like the 
shadow of a cloud moving steadily on. As the shade 
nears you, you can see the fish "playing," jumping out of 
the water just as small trout do, only in a large shoal you 
will see thousands of fish out of the water at the same 
time. Each sort of fish gives a colour to the water which 
is peculiar to it, so that an experienced fisherman knows 
at sight whether the shadow of the cloud, which he knows 
to be a shoal of fish, covers mackerel, or pilchard, or 
herring, or sprat. I was once standing on the beach with 
an old fisherman when we saw a straggling shoal of fish 
about half-a-mile long, swimming very slowly, which we 
could not make out. Their colour was new to him. So 
we took a boat and went out to them, and found they were 
a shoal of huge jelly fish, great transparent things shaped 
like an open umbrella and about its size, having around 
the edge of the umbrella a beautiful purple fringe which 
causes you to recollect it if you incautiously touch it. 
On the occasion to which I refer I was standing on a 
headland in a place called Prussia Cove, in Mount's Bay, 
when I saw a shoal, which I knew at once to be of 
mackerel, come out of a sandy bay there and go due west. 



23 

Shortly after I saw a shoal of porpoises (a cetacean which 
loves the mackerel in an epicurean sense) come lumbering 
up from the south into the sand. When they came across 
the trail of the mackerel these latter were a good mile 
off on their way. The porpoises had no sooner got into 
their back water than they wheeled into their course and 
set off in full chase. In about three minutes they were 
in the midst of the mackerel, playing havoc, whilst the 
unfortunate mackerel were driving forward in one solid 
line of terror, making the water foam before them as they 
fled. 

Of the Pilchard I have a different tale to tell. It is a 
little fish of the " herring " family, generally about ten 
inches long", and rarely so much as half a pound in weight. 
It is very local in its habits, rarely occurring in numbers of 
any importance east of the Start Point, in Devonshire, on 
the South coast, and Trevose Head, in Cornwall, on the 
north. It is taken yearly as far east as the estuary of 
the Exe, and has been taken, and occasionally in large 
numbers, off Seaton, in Devonshire, at the mouth of the 
river Axe. Some years since a small shoal was taken off 
Folkestone.* 

It occurs in very large numbers off the south-west coast 
of Ireland, but there is no native fishery for it there, and as 
its season on that coast coincides with its season on ours, 
our people are too busy at home to look after it. It occurs, 
of course, off the French coasts as the sardine. And the 
Spaniards have a mode of curing it which altogether beats 
our English method, as may be seen by a comparison of our 

* There is also some record of the capture of a shoal at Harwich, 
and a fish supposed to be the pilchard occurs in Scotland under the 
name of the garvie herring, but practically its home in England is in 
Cornwall and mainly in West Cornwall. 



24 

cured pilchards in this exhibition with those in the Spanish 
division.* 

Unlike the mackerel, the pilchard is not sought for in its 
fresh state out of Cornwall and West Devon. Our 
fishermen have tried many markets with it, but without 
success. And this is the more remarkable seeing that the 
fish is cheap, nutritious, and of exceedingly good flavour. 
When tourists first found out West Cornwall, they very 
soon found out pilchards, and more, they turned a little bit 
of "chaff" against us west countrymen into a reality, at 
their own expense. It used to be said of us that we ate 
"cream with our pilchards," which of course we never did. 
But when the tourist came down, he took it for granted 
that he could eat clotted cream with everything, and he 
insisted on having " cream with his pilchard," and he is said 
to have got it, and to have found it so good a mixture that 
now no large hotel gives broiled pilchard for breakfast 
without itf 

But we have other ways of cooking them besides broiling. 
We fry them and eat them with a sauce made of finely 
chopped onions, salt, cold water, and nothing else ; it is 
a very nasty sauce. And we eat them without any knives 
or forks, with our fingers. I do not say that all of us do 
this, but I have seen it done, and less than one hundred 
years ago the practice was universal amongst the bulk of 
our people. 

I hope to cure this want of a fresh pilchard market soon 

* There are two open barrels of the fish exhibited one at each end 
of the westernmost case in the Spanish Court. One is labelled 
"pressed sardines," and the other "salted sardines," but they are 
both of them pilchards, more cleanly cured than is our wont. 

t I can speak to the excellency of clotted cream as a ,sauce with 
broiled pilchard from personal experience. 



25 

in this building. I hope to induce some of our fisher people 
to send a supply to the fish-market here so soon as the 
season opens, which it will in a few weeks, and I think that 
with the great advantages offered here, we may succeed 
where others, under less favourable circumstances, have 
failed. Spain is running us so close in the business of 
supplying salted pilchards for the markets of the Roman 
Catholic countries, that we could easily find thirty to forty 
millions offish for the supply of a fresh fish market without 
feeling the loss of them. This apparently enormous 
number would be a mere flea-bite out of our catch for a 
season. It would be a day's, or at most two day's successful 
fishing for the seines of St. Ives alone. And this brings me 
to the support of Professor Huxley in his remark, that in 
the waters frequented by the pilchard the sea, taken acre 
for acre, is of greater pecuniary value than the land. A 
seine w r hen " shot " around a shoal of pilchards may enclose 
an acre of superficial water, certainly not more than two. 
It is on record that the seines in St. Ives Bay did on one 
occasion, in one day, capture 10,000 hogsheads, or over 30 
millions of pilchards, worth, over the boat's side, 2 per 
hogshead. I do not know the number of seines employed, 
but they could not possibly have exceeded 20 ; but, 
supposing they were 20, then 20 acres, or at the highest 
figure 40 acres of sea yielded ^"20,000 as its produce for 
one day, and each season consists of many days, and the 
fisherman pays no rent." 

* The greatest recorded catch by one seine at one shot was made 
at St. Ives in 1868. There 5,600 hogsheads, or over 16 millions of 
pilchards, were saved out of one seine. This catch was worth between 
; 1 1,000 and 12,000. Remarks of precisely the same character, but 
differing in detail, apply to our trawling grounds, but as pilchards are 
never taken by the trawler, I only allude to this fact. 



26 

Since I wrote the above about opening up a cheap 
market for small dainty fish like the pilchard, the question, 
as one intended to benefit the poorer classes, has been 
placed before me in what is to me an entirely new light. 
And it is this : Supposing you can supply pilchards in the 
height of their season at one penny each over the fish-stall 
(and the remark applies to all other fish which could be sold 
cheap), what is the poor man to do with it ? In summer he 
must go to the expense of a fire to cook it. At any time 
he must provide fat in which to fry it, most of which will be 
wasted, and after all, the chances are that his wife does not 
know how to cook it, and will spoil the dish in the doing of 
it. And for this, my practical informant says, there is but 
one remedy. If you want to introduce cheap fish for the 
use of the artisan you must in some way or other start 
shops or whatever places you like where he can get it 
cooked. Most of these difficulties apply also to the 
dressing of fish by boiling, but my informant adds to these 
another, that the prejudice against boiled fish is at present 
so deep-seated as to be practically ineradicable. 

You will find in this building, pilchards cured by all the 
methods in use, salted in barrels for the foreign market, 
dressed in oil, as sardines, or in salt sauce, as anchovies, or 
marinated, which is, I believe, an invention of our own ; and 
in every form you will find them good. 

The method in which the pilchards are cured for the 
Italian market expresses from them when "in bulk" (i.e., 
under the pressure in large masses necessary for salting 
them) large quantities of blood, which run from the curing- 
house down the streets in gutters to the sea. We are a toast- 
drinking people, and this peculiarity in the curing process 
gave rise to a toast which used to be given as equiva- 
lent to prosperity to the pilchard fishery. It was: 



27 

" Long life to the Pope, and may our streets run with 
blood." 

The fish itself resembles a small silvery herring having 
large scales. The people who catch it are much the same 
as those who fish for mackerel, but the fishery has a 
separate capital invested in it, the boats and nets used 
being peculiar to it. 

It is captured in much the same way as the mackerel is. 
In the night in drift nets ; in the day time in seines. 
Originally pilchard seining and mackerel seining were 
conducted in much the same way, but the decline of 
mackerel seining has now-a-days caused them to differ. 

The lookout of a mackerel seine is mostly kept on board 
the boat itself, and the seine net is hauled bodily on board 
with the fish in it, but in pilchard seining the lookout is kept 
from some hill where the huer or man stationed to watch 
for the shoals of fish can be seen from the boat, standing 
clear out against the sky. He thus gets a much wider out- 
look than can be had from the boat. He holds in each 
hand a bush, and when he sights a shoal of fish he informs 
the boat of its whereabouts by preconcerted signals made 
with these bushes. The seine boat moves in the direction 
indicated, and if it reaches the shoal in time it shoots its 
net. You must consider of this net when shot, as a round 
room in the water without a floor or ceiling, and if the shot 
is successful it contains the pilchards. At the next low 
water time a net, called a tuck net, and which I will liken to 
a perforated pocket handkerchief, is let down from large 
boats stationed at one side of the room of water, the tuck- 
net being inside the seine, and it is drawn up by means of 
ropes hauled in on board large boats stationed for the 
purpose at the other side so as to scoop up the fish in 
the seine. As the ropes come home the boats close in 



28 

upon the net, and then a very exciting, and on moonlight 
nights a very beautiful scene sets in. Millions of silvery 
little fish are sputtering and clattering on the surface of the 
water in the tuck-net Half a dozen men are in the midst 
of them up to their knees in fish, handing them into the 
boats in baskets, and working for dear life. Everybody 
is giving orders at the top of his voice about everything, 
and nobody is obeying anybody, and so the work goes 
on until the coming tide stops them, and causes them to 
run the risk of the escape of the fish before the next low 
water. Most of the fish thus caught are salted for 
export, but many find their way through the locality of 
their capture in the cowels or baskets exhibited on our 
Cornwall stall, and which are worn in the picturesque 
way shown in the lithograph also exhibited there. A 
strong woman can carry I cwt. of fish in the way shown, 
and for miles. 

But the waving of a huer's bushes has a very curious 
effect on any fishing village which happens to get sight, or 
news of it. To the stranger it would appear that the whole 
population of the place had suddenly gone lunatic. Every 
available man, woman and child turns out and rushes 
violently down the steep cliff to the sea shouting " heva ! 
heva ! " Whence the word is derived, we do not know ; but 
it is the signal that shoaling fish arc in sight, and that the 
population must turn out to be ready to receive them, for 
all this fish-work requires to be done with the utmost 
dispatch. 

A very curious thing, and entirely inexplicable, about 
these shoaling pilchards, is that at uncertain periods they 
shift their course for years together. For instance, fifty 
years ago, St. Ives on our North coast had almost a 
monopoly of the shoaling pilchard ; now she divides with 



29 

Newquay. Thirty-five years ago the principal South coast 
seining fishery was in Mount's Bay, now it is at Mevagissey, 
and it is no question of new seine fisheries having been 
established. It is due solely and entirely to a change of 
habitat on the part of the fish. We have many things yet 
to learn about the pilchard. 

One thing I have learned since I began to write this 
paper, is that during the mackerel season (February to 
June) and before our pilchard season commences, numerous 
shoals of very large pilchards are met with by our mackerel 
drivers in the deep sea, eight leagues and over, south and 
west of the Scilly Islands. These large pilchards are mostly 
females full of roe, ready to be shed, and unlike most fish in 
that condition are so dry and tasteless as to be utterly 
useless as food. A test of their size is that they are taken 
in the meshes of the mackerel nets. 

Like the mackerel the pilchard is not a true migrant, but 
comes in from the deep sea, shoaling by day and scattering 
by night, and remains on for its season. Unlike the 
mackerel it never takes a bait,* and is but vjry rarely seen 
in our seas except in its season ; but again, like the mackerel, 
it is too thorough a nomad to stand the confinement of an 
aquarium. And those of you who wish to see either of 
them alive must seek for them in their native haunts. 

* Whilst this paper was in the press information reached me that a 
pilchard had been captured, hooked in the mouth, on a white-feather 
whiffing-fly ; but as two other pilchards were at the same time 
captured, hooked in the side, it is probable that they were all acci- 
dently hooked out of a shoal through which the whiffing-line was 
passing. The fish may have been playing with the fly rather than 
attempting to feed on it. 



DISCUSSION. 

Professor, BROWN GOODE said he had heard some 
complaint that there were too many scientific men on the 
platform in these conferences, and too few practical men, 
but every one would agree that Mr. Cornish had shown 
that he had a thorough practical acquaintance with the 
subject, whilst he had used a thoroughly scientific method 
in his deductions. He had listened with great pleasure 
to the Paper, having been for some years paying special 
attention to the mackerel fishery in the United States. 
That fishery was one of the most important in the 
American waters. The produce in the year 1880 was 
about 132,000,000 pounds. It employed about 470 of 
their finest sea-going schooners, of from 60 to 100 tons 
burden each, and with an aggregate capacity of about 
23,000 tons, with crews of 14 to 20 men, and nets worth 
450,000 dollars or more. Within the last few years, since 
the introduction of the purse net to which Mr. Cornish 
had referred, it was not uncommon for one of those vessels 
to catch fish to the value of 5000 or even 7500 a year. 
The history of the mackerel fishery was very interesting. 
As long ago as the year 1600, within forty years of the settle- 
ment in New England, there were records of the colonists 
seining the mackerel off Cape Cod by moonlight ; and it was 
somewhat remarkable, that on this fishery was founded the 
system of public schools in the United States, for within 
ten or twenty years of that time the first public school was 
founded on a tax upon the fishery. At that time, when 
perhaps not one hundred barrels a year were taken, they 
found the inhabitants petitioning to prevent the destruction 



of the mackerel by this method of fishing, and that 
appeal had been repeated at various times in the history 
of the fisheries, even down to the present time. In the 
American Court of the Exhibition could be seen a 
diagram showing the progress of the mackerel fishery, 
and the very great fluctuations which took place not 
only with reference to the quantity of fish caught, but 
the number of vessels employed. It would be noticed 
that in 1882 the catch was very much greater than in 
any previous year, so that the fears as to the destruc- 
tion of the fish did not seem to be well founded. Two 
methods of fishing were afterwards introduced ; first, the 
gill net or drag net, like that used in Cornwall, and which 
is still used to a limited extent at the present time. 
Another method introduced about the same time, and 
kept up for a considerable period, was what they called 
trailing, or dragging a bait after a vessel under sail. That 
was carried on until the beginning of this century, and 
it was not uncommon to see a vessel with four or five 
poles sticking out from it, to which the bait was attached. 
That was given up, however, fifty years ago. At the 
beginning of this century another form of apparatus came 
into use, which was exceedingly effective for a time, and 
it was during the prevalence of this method that the 
great fisheries in the United States and the Canadian 
waters sprung up which had led to so many treaties 
from 1865 to 1870. There were from 500 to 700, or even 
in some years 1000 American vessels in the Gulf of St.- 
Lawrence fishing for mackerel, and this was called the 
mackerel hook fishery. It was conducted in this way : the 
fishermen took on board a hundred or more barrels of 
a very oily, fat fish called the menhaden, something like 
the pilchard. They ground it up fine and threw it out 



in great quantities. The mackerel would follow this for 
a long distance, and come up round the vessel like a 
flock of chickens coming to be fed. Then the fishermen 
had short lines with hooks on the ends, with which they 
caught the mackerel and threw them over on to the deck, 
and with a crew of 10 to 14 men the catch would some- 
times amount to 20,000 in a day. That mode of fishing 
was carried on for a long time, but the purse seine gra- 
dually came into use and displaced it. It was first used 
in 1814, but did not come into general use until 1860, 
and there were now probably 500 of them at work. The 
mackerel fishery had now been transferred from the Gulf 
of St. Lawrence to off the shore waters along the coast, 
and at the present time they followed them down to 
Cape Hatteras. The mackerel on the other side of the 
Atlantic had definite migrations, coming north in the 
spring of the year, when the fishermen followed them 
until August, when they were in the Gulf of Maine, then 
they followed them back in the fall. The mackerel 
increased in size as they got on better feeding-ground. 
They disappeared for a month or so in June, when 
they went to the bottom and spawned. He could assure 
Mr. Cornish that there was not the slightest practical 
difficulty in working the purse seine. They were from 
70 to 150 feet in depth, and 1,000 to 1,300 in length, 
and were worked by a special boat something like a 
whale boat, and it was quite easy for a vessel to catch 
as many fish as could be cured in three or four days. 
At first they used to give the surplus away or let them 
go, but now they had invented a kind of storage net, 
which they hung out over the side of the vessel, and 
kept the fish alive in it, taking out at intervals as many 
as they could cure before they spoiled. 



33 

Mr. KENNETH CORNISH asked if Mr. Cornish was in 
favour of legislation for the preservation of mackerel ? 
Referring to what had been said in regard to the pursuit 
of herrings and mackerel by porpoises, he might say that 
he witnessed a very remarkable sight at Teignmouth in the 
year 1860. In walking along the sea wall they saw a great 
commotion in the sea, a mile out, and watching it, they 
soon found a shoal of salmon running in, pursued by a 
shoal of large grampuses, who drove the unfortunate 
salmon right against the wall. They seized the salmon in 
their jaws, threw them up, and caught them like a terrier 
would a rat, and when the salmon turned and went out to 
sea again, they pursued them. He should like to know if 
Mr. Cornish thought it possible to catch these cetacea, seals 
and other animals that preyed on salmon, herrings, and 
mackerel, by the use of spinning bait on a large scale ? It 
seemed to him we were thinning down the fish, but not 
thinning down their natural enemies. It would not be at 
all difficult to make baits which would exactly represent a 
salmon, mackerel, or herring, with hooks concealed inter- 
nally ; and they might even be impregnated with the 
natural flavour of the fish. 

Mr. CORNISH, in reply, said, as far as his experience 
went, he did not think legislation was required with respect 
to a close time for mackerel or pilchards ; they took a close 
time for themselves and got away where they could not be 
caught. Further legislation was very desirable for the 
purpose of regulating the fishing of our own boats in British 
waters ; and even if what legislation there was were better 
enforced, it would be of great importance. With regard to 
catching porpoises, he should not like to tackle one weighing 
more than 2 cwt. in a small boat. 

Mr. SHAW, M.P., in moving a vote of thanks to Mr. 
[3] D 



34 

Cornish, said he was much interested in the mackerel 
fishing of the south coast of Ireland ; but he had learnt a 
great deal he did not know before. Up to the present he 
always thought that -if a mackerel could speak it would 
talk Irish, but he was now pretty well convinced that it 
would also speak in Cornish ; and perhaps if it could 
speak in either language it could give a different account 
of its sufferings to that which had been given in the Paper. 
One thing, however, might mitigate one's sympathies in 
this respect, for mackerel had not the slightest regard for 
other fish which suited its taste. In the neighbourhood 
of Cork there was a fleet of five hundred boats engaged in 
the mackerel fishery. He was sorry to say there were not 
as many native Irish engaged in it as he could desire, 
because round that part of the coast the inhabitants were 
a poor class of men, with very little enterprise, and very 
few of them were men of business or capital. In another 
district, too, mackerel fishing had been established, and 
seemed likely to succeed ; and he should be very much 
wanting in his duty if he did not refer to the great help 
given there by Lady Burdett Coutts, but for whose assist- 
ance the thing could not have existed. It was very satis- 
factory to know that the people of the coast a simple 
primitive people had availed themselves of the assistance 
offered them, and there were some of the best boats engaged 
in the fishery now going from the Harbour of Baltimore on 
the south coast of Ireland. The great object of catching 
fish was to bring it as quickly and cheaply as possible to 
the table, and he did not think there was a better fishing 
ground in the world than that round the south coast of 
Cork ; but hitherto facilities of transport had been rather 
deficient. Now, however, they were in a much better 
position in this respect, as there were rails now touching the 



35 

fishing grounds at Kinsale, Skibbereen, Baltimore, and 
Bantry, and in the Bay of Bantry a steamer had been put 
on, so that every evening the fish caught in any of those 
places could be shipped, and next day it would be delivered 
in the cities and towns of England. The great thing to be 
desired was to have as few people as possible between the 
consumer and the fishermen, otherwise the profit was scat- 
tered about by the number of hands through which the fish 
passed. If there were any gentlemen present engaged in 
the fish business, he would recommend them to send their 
agents over there, who would day by day collect the fish 
and send it forward. He knew, from practical experience, 
that fishermen got very little as the result of their industry ; 
this did not apply so much to the mackerel fishery, because 
it was mostly conducted by men of skill and experience 
who could take care of themselves. 

Mr. C. E. FRYER had great pleasure in seconding the 
vote of thanks. The Chairman had referred to the beautiful 
scene presented at night when the boats were leaving the 
harbour, but it appeared to him the enjoyment was much 
enhanced when you happened to be on board one of the 
vessels going to the fishing grounds. Having had the 
pleasure himself, he could recommend any one who visited 
Cornwall to endeavour to get a night's fishing on board 
one of those boats ; for no more beautiful scene could be 
imagined than was presented on a fine evening on board a 
boat off the Land's End. The energy of the Cornish fisher- 
men had been referred to, but, like many others engaged 
in the same vocation, they were remarkably conservative in 
their habits, and it was very difficult to induce them to 
adopt improved methods of fishing. He had had the great 
satisfaction of introducing into this country the system of 
preserving pilchards in oil, in the manner in which sardines 



36 

were preserved in France. There could be no question that 
the sardine was exactly the same fish as the pilchard, and 
those who had not tasted them he would recommend to buy 
in future not the French sardines but the Cornish. He had 
no interest personally in giving this advice, beyond the 
desire of seeing an industry which he had established pros- 
pering to the extent which it deserved. As an instance of 
the difficulty of inducing the fishermen to take a "new de- 
parture " in fishery matters, he related that on one occasion, 
when off Penzance, he endeavoured to get the fishermen to 
put aside the smaller fish, for the purpose of preserving them 
as sardines, as it was found that the smaller ones were pre- 
ferred for the purpose, but he had the greatest difficulty in 
the world to induce the fishermen to adopt that simple pre- 
caution. Every fish had to be taken out of the net, and 
it would have been perfectly easy for the men to put the 
small ones on one side and the large ones on the other, but 
their conservative tendencies prevailed, and they would not 
take the trouble to do so. There was a saying that the 
Cornish people could make anything into a pie ; and it was 
said that if a certain gentleman, who should be nameless, 
were to go there, he would be put into a pie ; and just as 
they were determined to put everything into a pie, so were 
they loth to adopt new methods of preserving fish for the 
market. If proper means were adopted there was no reason 
why enormous quantities of pilchards, preserved in salt as 
well as in tins, should not be sent to London and other 
English markets, though of course there were difficulties of 
transport to be overcome. Mr. Cornish had referred to the 
remarkable occasional disappearance of the pilchard from the 
coast of Cornwall, and it occurred to him that possibly the 
china clay works in Cornwall might have some influence on 
the movements of those fish. Enormous quantities of milk- 



37 

white water were poured into the sea down many small 
streams in the county, and that might have some effect, 
though he did not suppose it was the chief cause of the 
disappearance, because the same sudden disappearance had 
been noticed in France. He recently came across a letter 
received in 1879 from a friend in France, who spoke 
of the sudden appearance there of the sardines in great 
abundance, though for more than twenty years there had 
been a great scarcity. The abundance which had generally 
prevailed since had shown large occasional fluctuations. 
He trusted that many other gentlemen in Cornwall would 
follow Mr. Cornish's example, and make a study of the 
movements of this and other fish with a view to the 
practical encouragement of those very important industries. 
The resolution having been carried unanimously 
Mr. CORNISH said he did not think the china clay had 
much to do with the disappearance of fish, because it had 
been noticed that they still remained in localities where that 
water and also mineral water ran into the sea. They would 
require to watch them still more closely for some time to 
find out the reason for those movements. 

The MARQUIS OF EXETER then proposed a vote of thanks 
to the Chairman for presiding. Mr. Cornish had alluded 
to three kinds of mackerel, one of which, the green, was 
unwholesome ; and he was glad to hear the explanation, 
because not long ago his crew, who were Irish, came one 
morning and said they were all very bad from eating 
mackerel that had been in the moonlight. He concluded 
that it was this green mackerel. He had oftentimes en- 
joyed the pleasure of fishing off the Cornish coast, and had 
always met with the greatest kindness from fishermen and 
others ; and he could recommend any one who wanted a 
good fishing ground where they could catch all manner of 



38 

fish, to go, when the wind was not to the south or west, and 
lie off Penzance. They might catch there every kind of 
fish, from the mackerel down to the beautiful jelly-fish 
which Mr. Cornish had alluded to, which he had often 
watched on a calm day struggling to make head against 
the tide, but eventually drifting with it ; and perhaps the 
Chairman would recollect that they had it on the authority 
of a noble duke, that certain friends of his, who were as 
brilliant in talents as these jelly-fish were in colour, were 
also in the habit of drifting with the tide. 

Mr. HORNBLOWER seconded the motion, which was 
carried unanimously. 

The CHAIRMAN, in response, said it had given him much 
pleasure to be present at a discussion of so practical a 
character. There were many points on which he should 
have liked to touch had the time not been so far advanced, 
but he would only say, in correction of what Mr. Fryer had 
said, that the Cornish proverb was that the devil would not 
come into Cornwall because he was afraid of being put into 
a pie. 



LONDON I PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 
STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS. 



International Fisheries Exhibition, 

LONDON, 1883. 



THE 



HERRING FISHERIES 



H. J. GREEN, 



{PRIZE ESSAY.} 



LONDON: 
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 

13 CHARING CROSS, S.W. 
1884. 



LONDON: 
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 

STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS, 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 



THE increasing interest shown year after year in all 
matters connected with our fisheries is a sign of the times 
that can neither be overlooked nor under-valued. It is 
practically a recantation of the doctrine that the subject 
was one merely concerning professors and students of 
natural history, and an acknowledgment that, considered 
with reference to British industry and commerce, it is a 
matter of paramount importance. One of the most inter- 
esting divisions of the fisheries is the herring fishery. It is 
interesting, not only on account of the large number of 
persons which it employs, and its influence on the country 
financially, but on account of the natural history of the 
herring, of the theories which have been advanced and 
overthrown respecting its migration, and of the veil of 
mystery which for a long time hid the secret of its repro- 
duction from human understanding. It is obvious that 
whatever tends to elucidate and clear up disputed points in 
its natural history must react in a beneficial manner com- 
mercially. The record of the last few years has been far 
from being a blank page in this respect ; but perhaps, for 
the sake of completeness, it will be well to state a few of 
the earlier facts ascertained of the natural history of the 
herring. 



4 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

Let us consider first, then, the senses of the herring. 
They have been the subject of much difference of opinion, 
as indeed they have been concerning all fish. Yet the 
organs, though of course very minute, are so distinctly 
formed that we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that 
they were meant to be used. The tongue, for instance, is 
very small, but there is no doubt about a tongue being 
there ; and what is a tongue there for if not to be used ? It 
is true that the senses of taste and smell of some of our fish 
are not always very correct, especially of -those who prefer 
the neighbourhood of sewers and drains ; but they are the 
exceptions which prove the rule. Then, as regards hearing, 
the balance of evidence seems to be in favour of their being 
endowed with that sense. We need not question whether 
they are able to see or not. 

One of the most important points to be ascertained with 
certainty is what constitutes the chief food of the herring ? 
There has been much diversity of opinion on this matter ; 
but it appears to be pretty clear that the herring does 
not feed upon one kind of food. The preference seems 
to be for small Crustacea, although worms and the eggs of 
fishes have been found in their stomachs, and even young 
herrings. It will thus be seen that the cultivation of crus- 
tacea has a very important bearing on the prosperity of the 
fisheries ; for we cannot hope to bring the latter to a high 
degree of efficiency if the food supply is not promoted in a 
corresponding degree. It is a noticeable fact that herrings 
caught in lochs and bays are superior in quality to those 
caught on the open sea-coast. What is the reason of this ? 
Is it that the food is more abundant or more suitable ? It 
is a point worth investigation. 

The next important point to be solved is the settlement 
of the period of the year when they spawn. On the satis- 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 5 

factory solution of this problem the very existence of the 
fishery greatly depends. If we do not know when to look 
for the fish, we cannot catch them ; therefore anything that 
adds to our knowledge on this point is a very material 
assistance. A great many of our eminent men are of 
opinion that the herring spawns twice a year. We know, 
however, for certain that herrings appear at different times 
at different places ; and the investigations of the last few 
years have led us to believe that the object of their appear- 
ance off the coasts is for the operation of spawning. For 
instance, at Wick they appear between July and September ; 
at Eyemouth between June and September; at Arran 
between July and November ; and at Thurso as early as May. 
In the Moray Firth the time is from June to September, 
but in the Firth of Forth it is from November to March. 
[It may be noted incidentally that the Scotch fishery of last 
year was very successful.] In England we find the herrings 
at Yarmouth between June and November, off Cornwall in 
August and September, off Kent in October and November, 
and off Yorkshire between July and September. In 
Ireland they are fished at Galway in September ; off Kerry 
between January and March ; and in the Irish Channel 
between June and November. Taken as a general rule, 
we may say that the winter herring generally spawns 
in February and March, and the summer or autumn ? 
herring in September and October. 

It is an easy transition from the subject of their spawning 
time to the subject of their migration, or supposed migra- 
tion. There was a time and we should not have to go 
back very far when the theory of their migration from the 
Arctic regions was most stoutly maintained. We know 
better now. The interesting story was to the effect that 
the normal abode of the herrings was in the Arctic seas, 
E. 22. B 2 



6 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

and that they made periodical visits to the south (led by an 
advanced guard of one or two fishes !) for the purpose of 
spawning. Little was wanting to complete this dramatic 
story. We knew that the herrings usually lived in the 
North ; we knew that they sometimes came to the south ; 
we knew that they divided off the north of Scotland, one 
corps going to the right and the other to the left, all that 
was wanted were the herrings themselves. There is not, 
however, a shadow of a doubt about our previous belief 
being a huge mistake. The herring inhabits the deep water 
round our coasts all the year round, and comes periodically 
towards the shore to propagate its kind. The chief argu- 
ment that has been set up in favour of this statement is, 
that year after year, and at the same time of the year, we 
always find the same kind of herring in the same place. It 
is therefore a very reasonable assumption that they are in 
the neighbourhood all the year round. Besides, herrings 
caught in the extreme north of Scotland are inferior and 
lean compared to those caught at the same time farther 
south, which should not be the condition of herrings that 
are just about to spawn. Whether there are any who still 
believe in the migration of the herrings from the Polar 
regions and we would remind them that they must also 
believe in the advanced guard story, too matters little ; it 
is enough that a very large number of persons have long 
since abandoned it and accepted the other theory. 

The next point on which we would willingly have more 
information is what period elapses between the time of 
depositing the spawn and the appearance of the young fish ? 

This is a matter very difficult to ascertain, chiefly from 
the difficulty experienced in observing the operation ; but 
we may take it that the eggs are converted into fish in a 
fortnight or three weeks. In about nine weeks' time the 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 7 

fish are 3 or 4 inches long, and are full-grown herrings in 
about a year and a half. Any information on the latter 
point would also be extremely useful. It would dissipate 
some doubts as to when the operation of spawning is per- 
formed for the first time by the young herring. 

After all, it must be confessed with regret that our 
knowledge of the natural history of the herring is ex- 
ceedingly limited. It has been thought that we may learn 
a good deal from those whose vocation it is to catch them. 
That, however, is very far from being the case. The 
ignorance among the fishermen of the habits of the herring 
is certainly not very flattering to our insular pride. That 
it betrays a want of observation on their part, or incapacity 
to connect their observations with their occupation, cannot 
be denied. Perhaps the remedy might be found in erecting 
schools for fisher-boys, where the young generation might 
learn something of elementary Natural History that might 
act as an incentive to further observation of animated 
nature. The aim of all knowledge should be to apply it to 
the affairs of our eve ry-day life. 

A study of the fisheries of other countries is always 
interesting, and often instructive. We may in this way 
often learn methods of capture and curing, that may be pro- 
fitably followed by ourselves ; and we may also gather fresh 
facts concerning the natural history of the fish. It is but 
fitting to commence with a reference to the Dutch fisheries. 
We cannot help feeling a respect and admiration for a 
people who once possessed the finest fisheries in the world. 
We recall with envy the picture of their former superiority, 
a superiority which has long since passed away. The 
naturalists tell us that their superiority was owing to their 
fishing on our coasts in our absence on other matters. 
Whether that was the case or not we cannot say ; but 



8 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

even supposing that it was, it looks as if the Dutch still 
deserved the palm for superior strategy. While, however, we 
willingly accord whatever praise is due to the Dutch, we 
are far from endorsing the extravagant eulogy that many 
have thought fit to bestow on them. The Dutch fishermen 
of old acquired, and for a long time maintained, their proud 
position by their method of curing herrings. It is some- 
what strange that, great as England was in many respects 
at the meridian of Dutch prosperity, she should have been 
so far behind in this matter. Probably those great events ' 
of the time of Elizabeth were themselves the cause. The 
people were too much occupied by foreign affairs to attend 
to humbler matters at home. The Dutch fishermen kept 
their secrets pretty much to themselves ; but it will probably 
be found that they owed much of their success to their curing 
the herrings immediately they were hauled up from the 
sea. 

The French fishery is chiefly remarkable for the cure of 
sprats (about which we shall have something more to say 
presently) in oil. 

The Norwegian fishery is noted for various methods of 
smoking the young herring. 

A very interesting mode of fishing under difficulties is 
practised in Russia. Owing to the severe climate of that 
country, and to the consequent freezing of the water, the 
fishing industry is much curtailed ; but the fishermen 
manage to secure a good many fish by making lines of 
holes in the ice, and inserting their nets in them. 

It may not be inappropriate to say something here about 
the whitebait, the sprat, and the pilchard. As regards the 
whitebait, the question that chiefly interests us is whether 
it is the young of the herring or not. For a long time 
naturalists held that it was not ; and there is a good deal 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 9 

that might seem to support that view. The head of the 
whitebait was thought to differ slightly from the head of 
the herring ; the comparative length of the head to the rest 
of the body was supposed to differ, and the body itself 
was flatter than the herring, and lighter in colour. But 
there is an argument that completely over-rules and 
destroys these minor objections, viz. that the whitebait is 
never found with milt or roe. This, to our mind, taken in 
conjunction with the fact that large quantities are some- 
times caught with herrings, demonstrates very clearly that 
the whitebait is the offspring of the herring. The length 
of the whitebait is between two and four inches, and, very 
rarely, five inches. It is very plentiful in the Firth of 
Forth, and in the Thames, and is sometimes found in the 
Clyde and other rivers. 

The sprat is also an interesting fish. It has been 
accused of following the example of the whitebait ; but, 
although it is remarkable that sprats are taken in large 
numbers with herrings, we will not, on our present know- 
ledge, go so far as to say that they are the offspring of 
the herring. There is some relationship between the two. 
However, the fact of sprats having milt and roe at the 
proper spawning-time seems to show that they are not the 
young of the herring. The sprat fishery commences in 
November, and lasts till February or March. The princi- 
pal coasts on which it is prosecuted are Norfolk, Suffolk, 
Essex, and Kent. 

The pilchard resembles the herring in some respects, 
although there are important differences both in the forma- 
tion and in the habits of the two. For instance, the scales 
of the pilchard are larger than those of the herring. Again, 
the pilchard will rest in a horizontal position if suspended 
by the dorsal fin ; while the herring dips towards the head. 



io THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

Further, the pilchard has an exceedingly limited distribu- 
tion, while the herring has a very wide distribution. The 
pilchard fishery generally commences about July, and con- 
tinues to December. Like the herring, the pilchard is a 
migratory fish, lives in the deep water, and approaches the 
shores to spawn. The coasts that it most frequents are 
those of Devon and Cornwall ; in fact, we may say that the 
fishery is confined to those counties, and the fish appear 
in great numbers. 

There is yet one other digression that we would make. 
Scotland has the honour of being the home of two very 
puzzling fish, namely, the powan of Loch Lomond and the 
vendace of Lochmaben. Careful observation has " almost 
persuaded " naturalists to believe these fish to be descen- 
dants of herrings ; and the reason they assign for the 
existence of the fish in fresh water is that the monks of old, 
who, it is to be presumed, lived largely on fish, brought 
them there. The habits of the fish certainly very much 
resemble those of herrings. 

We will now consider the question of the herring brand. 
A very slight examination of the subject will suffice to 
show that the system is opposed to the principles that should 
regulate trade. It is true the brand is not compulsory, 
which, while robbing it of many objections, really amounts 
to very little, because every large curer is bound to use it 
for the simple reason that everybody else does. The 
brand, however, is very useful to small curers, because it 
gives them a chance of competing with the large curers. But 
it is a distinct form of State interference an interference 
in the sale of an article of extensive consumption. What 
are the reasons that can sanction such an arrangement ? 
Why are not our potatoes, and cabbages, and boots, and 
chairs and tables branded ? The chief reason that can be 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 11 

urged in favour of the continuance of the brand is that it 
is convenient for foreign trade. The brand has been in 
existence for so many years that the buyers in foreign 
countries have learnt to regard it as a guarantee that 
they are not being cheated. Barrels bearing the Crown 
brand are never waiting for a buyer, and they are passed 
on from hand to hand with nearly as much convenience 
as paper money. We cannot deny, either, that the system 
greatly assists the people in their purchases by the rejec- 
tion of inferior fish. It is best as a rule to choose for 
ourselves, but there are certain occasions when the judg- 
ment of a skilled officer is preferable to our own. In 
the next place, those whom the question most nearly 
affects are in favour of the continuance of the brand. If 
those who are most nearly concerned are content to pay 
the small fee for the brand to the Scotch Fishery Board, 
it certainly seems unwise and unnecessary to disturb a 
system that has worked so well. 

We have here, then, a remarkable instance of a system 
undoubtedly wrong in principle working well in practice. 
It would seem that our objects have been accomplished by 
means which are open to question. Nevertheless, although, 
in the circumstances, we would wish to see this particular 
system maintained, we strongly disapprove of it for other 
articles. No fresh system should be started on these 
principles. It may be urged that a fresh system would 
become as successful as this has become. We think not. 
This system was instituted when the fishery was com- 
paratively undeveloped, and therefore, having grown with 
it, the system has become, as it were, a part of the fishery. 
But to start a similar system now, in connection with an 
article of extensive use, would be a decided mistake. We 
may depend upon it that the less we have of Government 



12 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

interference the better it will be for us. There are, of 
course, a few matters, such as the regulation of cab-fares, 
that are, for simple convenience, best done by the Govern- 
ment. But it is a dangerous principle. It has led to 
tyranny in the past, and it may lead to tyranny in the 
future. The times have passed we trust for ever when 
justice was openly bought and sold, and when monopolies 
were bartered for political objects. We cannot forget 
those days, never to be recalled without a feeling of shame, 
when one class was raised by the degradation of another. 
It is a dark page in our history ; but it is, nevertheless, one 
that must be guarded against for the future. If ever the 
time should come when Englishmen will submit to all 
trade being arrested by imposts and fetters, we confess 
that we should have little hope for the future of England. 
Are we to be treated as children as persons who are 
incapable of judging for themselves ? No ; the noblest 
aim of man should be to think and act for himself, to 
exercise the intellect with which God has endowed him 
above every other creature, and to contribute as far as in 
him lays to the sum of human happiness. 



LONDON: PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 
STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS. 



International Fisheries Exhibition, 

LONDON, 1883. 



THE 



HERRING FISHERIES 



BY 



R. J. MUNRO. 



{PRIZE ESSAY.] 



LONDON: 
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 

13 CHARING CROSS, S.W 
1884. 



LONDON : 
PRINTKD BV WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 

STAMFORD STREET ANR CHARING CROSS. 



CONTENTS. 



PACE 

Around the Coast and order of the British Herring Fishery Close time 

wanted 3 

Curing herring by machinery 5 

The West Coast The Best Coast 6 

Great Yarmouth Historical notices, and mode of curing herrings . . 7 

Irish and West Coast of England Herring Fishery 10 

Iceland Prospects at Shetland Loss of life, &c 12 

Herring Fisheries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark Modes of curing 13 

Holland and Dutch cured herrings 15 

Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and North American coasts Specimens 

of the Clupeidae family, &c., &c 17 

Largest takes of herring yet recorded for the West Coast in February 

and March 1883 19 

Harbour accommodation Coasting steamers Uncertainty of the season 

Causes assigned 20 

Winter Fishery on the East Coast of Scotland and statistics for the year 

(1883) Sprat Fishery, &c 24 

Table showing total catches over the entire East Coast of Scotland for 

past twenty-six years 25 

Quantities branded for past twenty-six years 25 

Exports from Wick to Continental, Irish, English and Scotch ports for 

past ten years 26 

Total catch at each station from Northumberland to Shetland during 

past ten years 27 

Food of the herring Spawning, Temperature, &c 29 

Allegations against trawlers Remedies Other grievances .... 30 
Fish Culture versus Trawling Herring spawn The old Mesh 

Statistics for England desirable, and total quantities landed at 

Great Yarmouth 34 

Scotland, the leading Herring Fishery of the World Bounty system 

illustrated 35 

Leading centres in Scotland, and largest exports those of 1882 Com- 
parative table for Fraserburgh 36 

Curing process The "Brand Question," and merits of cure Stettin 

Report, &c 37 

Distinguishing features and structure of the herring Habitat 

Frequency of spawning process 39 

Commissioners' Report New method of fishing with old nets, &c. . . 41 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 



PART I. 

THE herring fisheries form one of the greatest commercial 
sea enterprises at home or abroad as a ready source of 
wealth. Royalty has aided its development, for it is 
branded from olden time by the legislative care of kings 
and governments. In England this fishery was pursued 
at a very early period. Yarmouth was taxed to the amount 
of ten thousand herrings for his Majesty King Henry I. 
Edward III. encouraged and fostered this industry with 
money and wise legislation. In Scotland, also, it has had 
the patronage of royalty, especially from their Majesties 
James V. and VI. And to this present time Parliament 
has passed many Acts and inquiries affecting our herring 
fisheries. 

The British herring fishery is inaugurated at the Hebrides 
in the month of May, and closes with the autumn and 
winter fishery at Yarmouth (with some exceptions in Scot- 
land). Owing to this, we have a spring, summer, autumn, 
and winter fishery, and it is also between the winter and 
spring seasons that a close time for herring should exist. 

Yarmouth is the central fishing station for this great 
industry on the east coast of England. Wick, Peterhead, 
and Fraserburgh, are the great fishing stations for the east 
coast of Scotland, but the best fishing grounds are found 
on the west coast. 

E. 21. C 



4 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

Immature herring, which is really summer fry seeking 
the ocean waters, are found in the Atlantic in vast shoals, 
and many fishermen traffic with these comparatively worth- 
less fish as early as the month of April. In the interests of 
the Lewis fishermen alone a close time is needed, and this 
is asked to be from the i$th of March to the i$th of 
May. 

From Lewis in the Hebrides, Skye, Fort William, and 
other adjacent districts, the boats put out for the herring 
fishery. Sometimes after toiling all night the boats will 
come home clean, but more generally the season is favour- 
able and propitious ; for instance, the records for last year 
(1882) " Stornoway Herring Fishing" show great success 
attending the fishermen's efforts. In the beginning of May 
for that year " shots " of from thirty to forty " crans " were 
very common, while several were as high as fifty and sixty- 
three crans. Whereas at Barra, in the Hebrides, very poor 
" catches " were got, at least for the opening season of that 
year. Again, as we shall have occasion to notice, a bad 
opening may end in the same place with a perfect harvest 
of fish, and vice versd, or the season may prove a very 
fluctuating one at almost any station or district. Some- 
times a " total failure," and often a " good season," all 
through the different months. 

The Orkney and Shetland Isles districts follow suit, 
passing round the north-east coast until it (the season) 
reaches the central and main fishing stations for Scotland, 
which is early in July. 

" The Herring Fishery " now takes the precedence over 
the " White Fish Fishery," although both are well repre- 
sented from the east coast fishing stations, and it ought to 
be noticed that the best bait for catching our white fish is 
the herring itself. 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 5 

Many stations on the east coast are now actively engaged 
from July to September, and in the latter month the northern 
districts are practically closed for the season, and the 
engagements for the east coast fishermen also end in 
September. For all that, the fishery is still pursued from 
the various stations south-east of the Firth of Forth, known 
as the Berwickshire Coast Fishing Stations, and large 
additions of mixed quality are added to the season's 
catch. 

About this time the herrings come inshore to spawn 
along the coasts of Northumberland, and of course the 
fishermen of this part have their rightful share in the 
fishery, and inaugurate the autumn and winter east coast 
of England herring fishery. 

The Tyne trawlers of Newcastle and Hull boats follow 
out the fishery ; and with reference to the last-named town 
or fishing district, it may be suitable to mention at this 
stage a novel invention of " curing herrings by machinery," 
introduced by Mr. George Leach of Hull, by which he 
estimates a barrel of herrings can be bloated at a cost of 
6d., as against is. gd. the present cost. The plan may be 
described as a successive process of drying, smoking, and 
cooling, by carriage from the cleaning room to the grills 
or wire-work trays. By passing up through a series of 
chambers, and down again in a zig-zag direction, they are 
operated upon by the agency of heat, smoke, and cold, and 
on their coming down to the reception table at the end of 
the first journey, they are ready for packing. 

The " Newcastle kipper " also deserves notice, as it is 
competing favourably against the celebrated "Yarmouth 
bloater " in the Metropolis, and was introduced at first 
by the late Mr. John Woodger, of Newcastle and Great 

Yarmouth. 

C 2 



6 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

Filey, off Flamborough Head, is the next and most 
important station, and exclusive of Great Yarmouth there 
are very large captures taken by the fishermen of Lowes- 
toft, Folkestone, and Hastings, and boats come from the 
north of Scotland to share in the English fishery, although 
there is a winter fishery pursued in Scotland besides that 
of Yarmouth. 

While in this vicinity we may notice the abundance of 
" whitebait " found during summer in the Thames, Humber, 
and other brackish waters near the sea coast, and that it 
really is the young of the herring or herring fry. 

It ought also to be noticed that the smallest herrings are 
caught off this coast, known as " longshorers," and are 
really the finest caught on the east coast of England. The 
takes of herring by the Tyne and North Shields fishing 
boats for August, 1882, were so large that the "railway 
company had to put on extra special trains" for their 
transit to the Metropolis. 

Coming round to the west coast, vid Solway Firth and 
Ayrshire districts, we enter a " New Year," and they are 
still fishing for the best herrings that are found on any part 
of the British coasts. Loch Broom, Loch Horn, Loch Fyne, 
and many other places, have only to be mentioned, as the 
celebrated resorts for the best quality of herring. Indeed, 
during the month of October for last year (1882), extra- 
ordinary takes of herring, and such as have not been for 
many years, were found at Astle Bay, near the head of 
Ardlamont, Rothsay ; from six hundred to seven hundred 
crans landed, and for the most part sent to England. 

At Girvan, during January and February, the fishery is 
still pursued, and from many parts of the opposite coast, 
including Newhaven, fishermen come and share in the 
closing hauls for the season, and neither for quality or 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. ^ 

quantity can any fishing grounds equal those in the west 
of Scotland ; but practically there is no close of the British 
herring fishery, although the great season is from July to 
September. 

Yarmouth, the headquarters for the English fishery, 
usually commences operations at the close of the east coast 
fishery for Scotland. In the beginning of October, a fleet 
of, or more than, five hundred vessels set out to the fishing 
grounds. A Yarmouth lugger is better adapted for the 
business, and less dangerous, than the open boats of Scot- 
land, except where the " hauling in " of the nets are con- 
cerned. This is obviated in the case of Yarmouth boats 
by using smaller nets, as when searching for fish the men 
may shoot and re-shoot them quite easily. Nets range 
from one hundred to one hundred and forty for each boat, 
and the nets are forty-eight feet long, and thirty feet deep. 
A Yarmouth lugger may cost from .700 to 1000, and 
is equipped for cargo and partial curage, carrying barrels, 
salt, and other essentials. The boats average fifty feet long, 
and the crew about fifteen men. Both the fishery and the 
curing processes connected with it are very carefully con- 
ducted. Buoys, in the shape of small barrels, show the 
position of the nets, and these buoys are painted according 
to the ship's name and port to which they belong, and 
at night lights are used to prevent collisions with the 
boats. 

Although there is a great and increasing demand for 
fresh herring, especially in the earlier part of the season, 
the greater portion of the season's catches is cured. The 
broken fish is sold in hundreds of tons for manure, and 
sometimes at as low a figure as 2Or. a ton. The curing- 
houses usually consist of two interior divisions, one for 
receiving and cleaning the fish, and the other to smoke 



8 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

them. The smoke-house, from bottom to top, has a series 
of woodwork called " tiers," on which the loaded spits hang, 
and the women are very dexterous in their manipulation, 
spitting a last in one day's time, or something like thirteen 
thousand herrings. Different effects follow both as to 
colour and curing, according to the length of time the fish 
are exposed to the action of heat. The names themselves 
indicate this, as they are called " Bloaters," " Straitsmen," 
" Reds," and " Blacks." 

At Yarmouth, billets of oak wood are used for smoking 
the fish, but in the west of Scotland brushwood and furze 
is made use of, but in all cases of smoked fish oak wood is 
best for practical purposes, though pine wood is said to 
give the best flavour ; and a great deal depends on the fish 
itself, and dispatch in curing them, hence the reason why 
the boats carry salt and other necessaries with them. The 
Yarmouth " bloater " is a familiar speciality, only hanging 
till it swells or " bloats." It is often packed and ready for 
transmission the night following its capture. 

The Yarmouth fishermen count their herrings by " swill- 
baskets ; " thus twenty swills make one last, supposed to 
contain six hundred and sixty herrings in each swill. Again, 
four herrings make a "warp," thirty-three warps go to a 
" hundred ; " in other words, one hundred and thirty-two 
fish. 

Great Yarmouth, if not itself the earliest station of which 
we have any record, at least occupies the sand-bank which 
appeared about the same time as the Roman legions. This 
sand-bank, " Cerdick shore," derives its name from Cerdick 
the Saxon, who landed here in the year 495. 

Not only were the Romans great lovers of fish, but 
especially so to a dish of herrings, and their encampment 
at the mouth of the Yare still remains in proximity to 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 9 

Great Yarmouth. It is said that our ancient fisher- 
men supplied this " garianonum " or encampment with 
herring. 

In 670 a tax upon the herring fishery is mentioned, and 
this tax was commonly known as " herring silver." Another 
reference in details is dated also with the history of Eve- 
sham Monastery, founded in 709. We also find that an 
annual tribute of herrings, varying from thirty thousand to 
sixty thousand fish, was paid as rent to one Hugh de 
Montford, of Suffolk Manors. The " free fair " of Yar- 
mouth, or herring market, was attended by many foreign 
fishermen,and this " free fair " lasted for forty days, ending 
November nth. 

We have already noticed the tax paid to King Henry I., 
and in 1209 we find King John granting a charter to Yar- 
mouth, on condition that the burgesses provide his Majesty 
with fifty-seven ships for forty days at their own charge, as 
often as he should need them, for hostile occasions, and also 
that they pay an annual fee of 5 5 to farm rent for ever. 

The Abbot of St. Albans was a large patroniser at the 
herring market, and some idea may be gathered from the 
fact that his agents employed "seven stout and handsome 
horses" in carting his herrings for storage. These latter 
he sold over again at a profit, after the free fair was 
over. 

Passing by many interesting records, we find that the 
prefix " Great " was added to Yarmouth in the reign of 
Henry III. ; and a noble provision in Magna Charta 
enacted that " all merchants may with security and safety 
go out of England, and come into England, and stay and 
pass through England, by land and water, to buy and to 
sell, without any evil tolls, paying the ancient and rightful 
dues, except in time of war." 



io THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

The Statute of Herrings passed in 1357 enacted, "That 
all herrings should be bought and sold in the haven of 
Great Yarmouth during the fair, not at sea, or within a 
radius of seven miles from the port of Great Yarmouth, 
and that the last of fresh herring should not be more than 
40.?., and that two lasts of fresh shotten herring should only 
be equal to the last of fresh full herring. 

" That all sales should be contracted between sunrise and 
sunset, that six score should be the hundred of herrings, 
and the last to be ten thousand. 

" Further, that the merchants of Yarmouth and Metro- 
polis or elsewhere sell the thousand of herring to the public 
after the price rate of the last, and that the Yarmouth 
dealers should sell the last of red herring within forty days, 
at and not exceeding half a mark of gain above 40^. paid 
for fresh," &c. 

These provisions show how important was the acknow- 
ledged position of Yarmouth in its relations to the herring 
fishery. 

The herrings appear on the Irish coast in June, and just 
at the close of the mackerel fishery, and they are captured 
both by the Irish and Manx fishermen. Immense shoals 
now commence their journey down the west coast of Eng- 
land, literally darkening the sea with their numbers and 
density. They have been known to extend a distance of 
six miles off the Isle of Man. Great quantities are caught 
in Cardigan Bay, Swansea Bay, and St. Ives Bay. It may 
be noticed that the west coast of England fishery com- 
mences about the same time as the east coast of Scotland, 
and also that the Irish herring fisheries are almost a name ; 
for instead of working a coast that may be said to super- 
abound with this fish, they are content to derive supplies 
from the north of Scotland. 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. n 

Sprats (Clupea sprattus] are caught in abundance off the 
Cornwall coast, and also in the south of England ; and the 
pilchard fishery of St. Ives is still one of the most im- 
portant of any connected with the Cluptida family. The 
season is between August and September, and upwards of 
sixty years ago large quantities were caught in the Firth 
of Forth and other estuaries of Scotland. At present this 
fishery is confined to the coast of Cornwall. The mode of 
capture is to encircle the fish with a net called the " seine- 
net," requiring twenty men to each net. Including boats, 
netting, and gearage, the cost is nearly 1500. When 
cured for exportation they are carried and laid in " bulk," 
that is, laid in layers of salt and fish alternately, until the 
pile is finished. In about a month sufficient oil is extracted 
to allow of their being packed ; and this, the last process, 
requires a good deal of pressing before " heading " up the 
casks. On this account a pressing-machine is used for 
three times to each barrel or cask before heading it up. 
The Irish coast and west of England herring fishery can 
show records of national importance, and charters relative 
to it, as far back as the year 1202. 

The French herring fishery has a history of its own, and 
is carried out not only on its own shores, but to a large 
extent in English waters. Prior to the Anglo-Franco war, 
more than three hundred French vessels pursued the fishery 
at Yarmouth Sands, and at this time they were considered 
the best fishers in the world. 

Open ruptures were common among different nation- 
alities through fishermen trespassing in each other's waters, 
and in 1468 a mutual treaty was made between European 
powers that fishermen should be allowed to fish without 
hindrance in any water. 

The free fair of Yarmouth drew many French fishermen, 



12 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

and others likewise, to vend their produce in England. 
Many of the traditions connected with Great Yarmouth 
are strangely linked with names that bespeak French or 
Norman extraction. 

Peter Chivalier, a Yarmouth merchant, is credited with 
discovering how to cure herrings in salt, and his method 
was followed up by one Peter de Ferars. Louis VII. of 
France passed an edict that only mackerel and salted 
herrings might be purchased at Estampes ; this was in the 
year 1155. 

It was at Kiel Bay that the food of the herring was 
popularly demonstrated to be of a certain kind. Although 
M. Mobins is not the only naturalist who has asserted this, 
still we are indebted to the French coast fishery for those 
facts which relate to herring food. In the year 1383 im- 
mense shoals were caught off the French coasts, and some- 
times the schools of herring are so large that the boats are 
unable to take all the herring which " strike." 

During the season of 1880, which was a remarkable one 
in all quarters, one French fisherman drew thirty-five lasts, 
and it is asserted that another on one occasion caught more 
than fifty lasts, or 700,000 herrings. 

And the takes of herring by French fishermen for 1 880-81 
are recorded to be above the usual average. 

The sprat or sardine fishery of France is the most ex- 
tensive of any that seek that species of the herring ; and 
young herring-fry and pilchards form a large percentage of 
the true sardine ; and it may be admitted that, in other 
points connected with fish culture and fish acclimatization, 
we should do well to follow up the footsteps of France. 

The herrings appear on the north-western shores of Ice- 
land from May to September ; sometimes [later, never 
sooner, or very rarely so, and always found in September 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 13 

in the eastern fjords ; they are never found on the south 
and south-west coasts. 

The shoals, in their migration to the north and north- 
east coasts of Iceland, sweep into those fjords possessing 
deep water and feeding properties, and so we find them 
abundantly in such fjords as Eskjfjord or Seydisfjord. 

The fishery is carried on in these fjords, and principally 
by Norwegian fishermen, who stay for the season, curing 
the fish at the various stations or wooden sheds erected for 
the purpose. 

The Norwegian boats are larger than the Icelandic boats, 
but yet smaller than those of the east coast of Scotland. 

The fishing is by means of the seine-net, and in large 
takes the ends of the net are anchored ashore, when the 
operations may now be compared to the pilchard fishery 
of Cornwall, the fish being taken out as they can cure 
them. The nets vary in size to suit the varying depths, 
with a mesh of half an inch. 

The best kinds of white fish are found here in conjunc- 
tion with the herring, besides many of the numerous enemies 
that pursue the shoals, such as sharks, " herring whalers," 
catfish, wolf-fish, sea-gulls, &c., &c., and by the end of the 
season, or at least in September, herring nearly one pound 
in weight are taken, and such usually measure fourteen 
inches in length. It ought to be noticed that medium 
herring, or even the small ones, are preferable in quality. 

As stated, the Icelanders do not follow out the herring 
fishery, and although Nonvay takes a leading share in this 
fishery, the east coast is represented in these waters through 
the firm of Messrs. Slimon, Leith. 

Shetland is realising the growing importance of the 
herring fishery, for although they pursued the cod fishery 
with skiffs in comparison to the open boats, or even the 



14 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

double-decked mainland Scotch boats, they have not only 
increased the number and size of the latter, but solely with 
the view to prosecute the herring fishery ; as an instance, 
the following statistics will show this. In 1880, the number 
of boats was increased to 217. The success attending the 
fishermen for that year led to an increase of boats, which 
rose to 276 as against 217 for the year 1881 ; also 125 large 
decked boats as against 72 ; and in the year 1879 Shetland 
only possessed six large herring boats : this favourable 
account for this district is still on the increase. The terrible 
north-west gale which broke over the Shetland district on 
July 20, 1 88 1, cost them the loss often boats and fifty- 
eight lives ; but as many will remember, the season was a 
bad one all through ; many valuable lives were lost, for on 
the east coast alone not less than one hundred and thirty- 
four fishermen perished within sight of home and friends. 
A fisherman's wife, writing about Shetland, says, " Instead 
of a fund for widows and orphans, could something not be 
done to save us being made such ? " 

The " haafs," or deep-sea boats of Shetland, are really 
what we termed them, " skiffs," barely able to carry 60 cwt. 
of fish ; they resemble the Norwegian yawl, but having a 
greater spring from stem to stern. 

Round the many points and promontories, and between 
the islands, numerous and dangerous tideways run at a 
fearful velocity. " Cutting the string " means crossing these 
tideways, and this is only attempted at slack tides ; when it 
has to be performed at full tides, the danger will to some 
extent be understood ; the livers of the fish are crushed to 
prevent the waves breaking called " lioom ; " when this so- 
called " cutting the string " is not attempted, then they 
scud before the wind under bare poles. 

It would prove an advantage to all connected were the 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 15 

jacket-net more universally adopted at the herring fishing, 
as it saves time by telling whether herring are about, and 
at what depth, and a thermometer is also attached to show 
the temperature of the water. 

Fishermen would be better prepared for any emergency 
if they would only provide themselves with a portable life- 
jacket, which could be inflated before taking the harbour 
in a storm. 

Although the Norwegian schooners run to Iceland for 
herrings, their own fisheries, exclusive of Sweden and 
Denmark, are of considerable importance and value. The 
jagts or yawls fish in the numerous fjords, which in some 
cases extend inland for a hundred miles, with frowning 
mountains overhanging their sides, or sweeping cataracts 
disgorging themselves into the basin below, and sea-gulls 
helping themselves to the finny wealth from these waters. 
The depth close inshore of some fjords is one hundred 
fathoms, and even deeper in some cases. 

The creeks of the west coast are subject to sudden 
squalls, which, through the intervening mountainous back- 
ground, sweep down unperceived. The herring shoals 
sweep into and from these fjords proceeding towards 
Stavangar and the Naze. From Bodo and along the chain 
of islands known as Loffoden Islands the fishery is prose- 
cuted, and as a feeding ground these fjords resemble our 
own west coast of Scotland. 

Along the Swedish coast there are also rocky islands of 
varying length and breadth, with a fisherman's house upon 
one or other of them, and a creek or fissure serving the 
purpose of a harbour. The fishery is pursued at various 
seasons of the year from the Cattegat grounds into the 
northern Atlantic ; but there are very important stations 
and fishing districts along the south coast, and the sprat 



16 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

and anchovy fisheries form an independent nucleus of 
wealth. 

Their mode of curing is peculiar and unique. Besides 
curing sprats (d la sardine), we may get herrings skinned 
and boned, or skinned, boned, and marinated, that is, cooked 
and potted either in vinegar or glacialine, or we can get 
the " brack-water herring " done up in the same manner. 

Perhaps we should state here that these coasts exemplify 
a curious feature in marine life, viz. herrings living in fresh 
water, being unable, through physical features of the coast, 
to reach the Arctic Ocean. 

There are also large companies in Norway and Sweden 
which cure and export herrings on a very large scale, such 
as the Stavanger Preserving Company, Nordlands Pre- 
serving Company, Bodo, Norway, &c. 

Before the eighteenth century Swedish records show 
that their home and foreign trade surpassed the Scottish 
fishery. Vast quantities were boiled down for oil, and this 
over and above an immense quantity consumed at home 
besides exportation. The same is truer still in regard to 
Holland, for even before the sixteenth century their herring 
fishery was the best developed and most extensive one 
known, until it was prohibited in 1625 from fishing off our 
coasts unless provided with a royal licence. About this 
time a British Fishing Association was suggested by Coke 
as a mutual aid in withstanding the encroachments from 
Dutch and French fishermen. Notwithstanding both the 
Dutch and French fleets continued prosecuting the fishery 
in sight of Yarmouth, and the Dutch fleet were guarded 
by war-ships. The war between France and Holland was 
the first perceptible step that led to a decrease in her 
fisheries ; this was in 1702, and through which she lost four 
hundred of large sized Dutch busses. 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 17 

The invention of curing herrings is attributed to one 
Beukelsz, who died in 1397, an d it is recorded that the 
Emperor Charles V. paid a royal compliment by visiting 
his tomb. 

It seems as if the Clupeida family had found out the 
truth, for some time back, in that term which is so well 
known, viz. " Amsterdam is built on herring bones." At 
least the herring fishery of Holland is not what it used to 
be, principally owing to the scarcity of fish, yet it was 
Holland who inaugurated and developed this fishery into 
a system of commerce, though there is good reason for 
giving equal or even pre-historic precedence to Scotland, 
who allowed it to decline. 

The Dutch are famed for the scrupulous care in every 
incident connected with the fishery and curing operations. 
They have two kinds of fish and two kinds of salt ; this 
latter commodity is brought from Spain, the barrels must 
be of a certain kind, the mode of eviscerating must be up 
to the standard, and from beginning to end every detail 
must be complied with ere one officer would dare to stamp 
them as Dutch cured herrings. 

We might notice here that the word " herring " was 
derived from the German " Heer," an army, in relation to 
the moving shoals in their progress or migration. 

At Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Carolina and Virginia, 
and other parts of the coast of America, an extensive 
herring fishery is followed out, arid the same physical 
aspects and feeding properties through the rivers and other 
agencies mark out these grounds as a resort for all kinds 
offish. 

The season for herring begins in April, when the first 
" run " arrives, named " Granville fish," from the course 
they take past that township. The May herring are spent 



1 8 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

fish, and, of course, inferior in quality. The season lasts to 
October, when, between the early takes of large herring, 
the celebrated Nova Scotia sprats form the closing hauls. 
Herrings of superior quality are found in the numerous 
bays of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland during summer 
and autumn, but, as we find on our own coasts, and, indeed, 
more or less everywhere, the herring shoals will disappear 
for a season, or seasons, invariably returning again to their 
old haunts. The sprats or herrings are cured by smoking, 
and one speciality in this class of cured fish is to remove 
the bones before drying them. 

The herring species are extremely large in the North 
Atlantic waters. The Clupea elongata measures 15 inches 
in length and over 5 inches at its broadest part, and these, 
perhaps, are the extreme limits. They are very abundant 
during the season, and the smelts (Osmerus viridescens) are 
so abundant during the winter that they are invariably 
used for manuring purposes, notwithstanding their delicious 
flavour and edible qualities. Splendid specimens of the 
genus Alosa tyrannus are found here, and, if possible, they 
are even more extensively used to enrich the earth. The 
best specimens of our white fish are found here, and, con- 
sidering the quality of their food so largely represented by 
the herring species, we need not search further for reasons. 
It is recorded that in the year 1796 a vast quantity of 
herring was frozen into a solid mass in one of the weirs of 
Nova Scotia. 

As we have stated, the smallest herrings are those 
caught off the Norfolk coast, known as " long-shorers," and 
the largest specimens are found along and off the coasts of 
Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, and vicinity of 
North America. The herring is widely distributed, abound- 
ing in the White Sea, Baltic, Zuider Zee, and in the Black 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 19 

and Caspian Seas. The Persians call their herring royal 
fish. It is a familiar favourite on all parts of the British 
coast, through Europe, and all parts of the northern 
hemisphere. 

Large quantities of special cured herring are exported 
direct to our Australian colonies, and it is an expressed 
wish from the Antipodes that some effort for introducing 
the Clupea harengus be made. 

Abundant as the herring is, there is good reason to 
believe that it may be made a common commodity 
wherever the conditions necessary to its habits exist ; these 
conditions do exist particularly around the British coast, 
and very specially in the western islands of Scotland. 

The herring is most abundant on the British coasts, in 
comparison to any other coast throughout the world, and 
perhaps this is the cause above all others why Great 
Britain possesses the best herring fisheries in the world. 



PART II. 

IN the district of Girvan there is a small village named 
Ballantrae, and the fishing-bed is on the " Ballantrae banks." 
Upon these banks the herring come regularly, and have done 
so for centuries, during the month of February, as a rule. 
This year (1883) has been the culminating point in the 
records of that district. Clouds of gannets darkened the 
immediate vicinity, or forced attention as they swooped 
to the surface of the water, and, rising with their captured 
fish, made way for others to repeat the process, in their 
journeys to and from " Ailsa Craig." 

For the week commencing February 28th and beginning 
E. 21. D 



20 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

of March, or, at least, not more than five days altogether, 
the total catch was "32,000 baskets," and to despatch the 
fresh herring, 500 railway trucks were linked on to a series 
of special trains. This is only for one week, and brings us 
already into the spring fishery, although we have yet to 
refer to the winter fishery. More than fifty carts were 
employed in taking the fish to the railway stations. 

Some idea of the inconveniences resulting to our fisher- 
men through a felt want of proper harbour accommodation 
may be gathered from this district. 

Owing to the unsuitability for fishermen landing in this 
harbour they land on the beach, and when a heavy surf is 
rolling, this is, of course, impossible. To the credit of a 
few gentlemen interested in the fishermen's welfare, a 
machine or engine was constructed by which the boats are 
now drawn on to the landing-stage in safety. Notwith- 
standing these humane agencies, loss of life and property 
is frequent, and at the close of this week which we have 
just recorded, two Ardrishaig boats, while deeply loaded 
and returning from the Ballantrae banks to Girvan, ran on 
to the " Whelk rocks," a very dangerous reef that ought to 
be marked by a cage-beacon ; we are sorry to add that 
three of the crews lost their lives, and only at some risk 
the rest were saved. 

A cruising steamer with an officer from the Fishery 
Board does good service here by keeping a free course on 
the grounds where smacks anchor and cause obstruction. 

The west coast herring make splendid kippers, and the 
produce of this class of cured fish comes from the Storno- 
way district ; their fishery ends in November. 

Messrs. James Methven and Company, Leith, used to 
take the responsibility of forwarding the kippers and cured 
fish to foreign ports, but, finding this too heavy for 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 21 

them, these gentlemen were forced to charter powerful 
steamers for this purpose, besides an arrangement that 
the Baltic line of steamers shall call at Stornoway and 
other fishing ports on the west coast during the season, 
and convey the fish to Stettin, Dantzig, Konigsberg, Riga, 
and St. Petersburg. Besides these large steamers, smaller 
craft convey shipments to Glasgow, vid Hamburg, and 
other places, and Norwegian schooners even come for this 
purpose. In June for the year 1882 one steamer alone 
shipped upwards of 21,000 barrels of cured herring for 
Stettin. The smaller steamers referred to bring a large 
percentage of the herring to Stornoway in " bulk," to be 
gutted and otherwise prepared for the continental markets. 
The last shipment, in November, from Stornoway for 
Baltic ports was upwards of 1 500 barrels of cured herring. 

As a proof how fluctuating and uncertain the fishery 
may be at almost any station, we may select the present 
district 

At Stornoway, in May (1882), we stated that some boats 
realized from fifty to sixty-three "crans." In the be- 
ginning of June very poor catches were recorded, though 
some boats were more fortunate. Again, herrings were 
reported to have left the Ayrshire coast for a time, as they 
were met in with at the sound of Killbrannan ; but one 
month later (September) a Troon boat came into Ayr 
Harbour loaded to the gunwale with a take of herring. It 
was estimated that she had forty maise (or 20,000 herring) 
of medium size and quality. 

Wick, once the celebrated centre for Scotland, is a 
peculiar example on this point. In 1794, and even within 
the memory of some still alive, herrings were so plentiful 
that the land had to be manured with them. The selling 
price at Bo'ness, Firth of Forth, was 6d. per barrel. 

D 2 



22 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

Even a strong wind was sufficient to strew the beach with 
fish. 

Some authorities assert that the diminution of the 
herring fishery is caused by the winter fishery for sprats 
and young herring, and that the same reason may be 
applied to our white fish ; and the splendid fishery in the 
Firth of Forth, extending at one time to Kincardineshire, is 
cited as an instance how we can disperse the white fish by 
exhausting the herring shoals. 

As good authorities assert that it is impossible to affect 
the herring, or cause any apparent diminution in the 
average takes for the season, as any differences may 
readily be accounted for by the season itself, such as 
stormy weather, not to mention the casualties that too 
frequently happen through loss of nets, boat, and even life 
itself. But since we have to close this order with the 
winter fishery, it may serve some purpose to examine the 
facts, and leave opinions alone in the meanwhile. The 
principal centres for the winter fishery on the east coast 
are Wick, Anstruther, and Firth of Forth. The Firth of 
Forth closes in January, and the other districts named 
begin the winter fishery in this month. 

The statistical tables are the main guides in determining 
our question, and as these are appended in full for some 
years past, we may state as a broad conclusion that where 
a decrease is shown at one district, an increase is shown at 
another. For this year (1883) about eight yawls, which 
represented the winter fishery in Firth of Forth, reported 
very poor fishing indeed ; but then the bulk of the New- 
haven fleet were at Girvan on the west coast, or Anstruther 
on the. east coast, and for both stations large takes and 
good prices are recorded. At Wick (1883) the catch was 
very small, and for the whole season up to March it records 
1990 crans against 4693 crans of corresponding date of 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 23 

last year (1882). Now, although the comparison is very 
disparaging between this and last year, yet, since the 
inauguration of the winter fishery, the number for this 
year is, almost to a cran, "the number for any previous 
year." 

This is very important in proving no diminution in the 
fishery itself, but, if possible, an increase, or the numbers of 
last year mean nothing, and, as we have tried to show, a 
decrease at one station may mean an increase at another. 

We will now subjoin the tables for the district of 
Anstruther up to the year 1882. For this year (1883) a 
very promising commencement was made, and English 
buyers were early on the ground, and these were even 
more numerous than any previous year, representing 
London, Filey, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Lowestoft, 
North Shields, Scarborough, Bridlington Quay, &c., and 
three of the principal English railway companies had 
representatives at Anstruther. 

For the week ending January 2/th the returns read 

Monday 40 crans, price 52^. to 8oj. per cran. 

Tuesday 200 501. 53*. 

Wednesday .... 150 5&r. 

Thursday (Stormy). 

Friday 102 $"js. 6os. 

Saturday (Stormy) . . 2j 6oj. 

A mixed fleet of 185 boats was by the i/th of February 
reduced to 130, and these landed 1050 crans, realizing a 
sum of 3000. One boat had nearly fifty crans, and re- 
ceived for its cargo 130. 

The 24th of February was the practical close of this 
fishery, owing to general stormy weather, but the details 
were very satisfactory for that week, and may be stated in 
sequence. 



24 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 



Monday . 


8 1 boats 


400 


Tuesday . . 


. 194 


1,288 


Wednesday . 


. IOO 


400 


Thursday . . 


. 160 


500 


Friday . . 


. 91 


120 


Saturday . 


. 24 


6 



400 crans, highest price 5 2if> 

37*- &/. 
38*. 
33-f- 
45*. 



Total catch for the week . 2,714 

Total catch for the season, 8866 crans, or about 1650 
crans above the quantity landed at the corresponding date 
of last year. 

Now this is very satisfactory, and reads all the more 
favourably when stormy weather is taken into account. 

CLOSE of the HERRING FISHING at ANSTRUTHER, May 1882, and 
COMPARATIVE TABLES for the SAME DISTRICT. 

Crans. Crans. 

1873 . . 9,800 1878 . . 10,500 

1874 . . 20,000 1879 . . 2,160 

1875 . . 8,700 I880 . . 8,630 

1876 . . 5,640 1881 . . 16,950 

1877 . . 2,500 1882 . . 13,380 

There were nearly 1500 boats at this district in 1882, 
and, in consequence of competition among English buyers, 
the prices averaged 4is. per cran. The inshore grounds 
are proving more remunerative than on former occasions, 
and the quality superior. 

Taking the winter fishery as a whole, in the upper parts 
of the Firth of Forth and northern districts they are very 
good, except for this year (1883) at Wick, which is the 
worst season they have yet dealt with. 

The take of sprats from Firth of Forth in 1881 amounted 
to 13,110 crans, valued at ,2786; in 1880 the take was 
14,500 crans, and only realised 2175. 

The chief centre for the sprat or Garvie fishery is in the 
Beauly Firth, and extremely heavy catches were taken in 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 



November, 1882, as some boats had 25 crans, averaging 
80 to each boat, and, as near as possible, for the whole 
season, 4500. 

Such figures may prove very tantalising to those persons 
who hold that the sprat is really a herring, and, either way 
granted, it forms a very important item in our winter 
herring fishery. 

TOTAL CATCH of HERRING OVER the ENTIRE EAST COAST of SCOTLAND for 
TWENTY-SIX YEARS ; LEWIS and BARRA EARLY FISHING INCLUDED. 





Crans. 


1857 . 


. 329,251 


1858 . 


393,035 


1859 . 


302,943 


1860 . 


. 463,100 


1861 . 


485,645 


1862 . 


. 520,280 


1863 . 


. 439,210 


1864 . 


. 432,064 


1865 . 


395,157 


1866 . 


. 413,065 


1867 . 


. 474,098 


1868 . 


. 366,068 


1869 . 


403,633 





Crans. 


1870 . 


596,421 


1871 . 


. 562,865 


1872 . 


562,737 


1873 . 


. 7H,7I7* 


1874 - 


. 720,964* 


1875 


. 655,606 


1876 . 


. 406,440 


1877 . 


561,439 


1878 . 


618,597 


1879 


. 516,406 


1880 . 


930,307* 


1881 . 


675,107 


1882 . 


730,723* 



TABLE SHOWING QUANTITES BRANDED in WICK DURING the LAST TWENTY- 
SIX YEARS up to 3Oth September in each year. 



Years. 


ass 


Years. 


Z 


1857 


48,612 


1870 


38,700 


1858 


54,348 


1871 


45,7oo 


I59 
i860 


50,256 
60,559 


1872 
1873 


42,000 
55,ooo 


1861 


67,949 


1874 




1862 
1863 
1864 


77,564 
80,000 
67,000 


1875 
1876 
1877 


54 ',000 
36,500 
31,600 




57,000 


1878 


60,000 


1866 


56,700 


1879 


53,450 


1867 


66,450 


1880 


77,108 


1868 
1869 


21,200 
63,000 


1881 
1882 


43,046 
48,280 



26 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 



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THE HERRING FISHERIES. 



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THE HERRING FISHERIES. 



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THE HERRING FISHERIES. 29 

The herring is a very voracious feeder, and, according to 
M. Mobins, the principal food of those found in the Baltic 
and German Ocean consists of some kinds of minute 
crustaceans of the order of Copepoda. 

In February, 1872, a number of herrings were caught in 
Kiel Bay at about 240,000 herrings daily for three weeks, 
and in almost every one that M. Mobins opened, the 
stomach was found loaded with Copepoda belonging almost 
entirely to one species (Temora longicornis). By careful 
counting the number present in one case was found to be 
60,895, and another herring contained 19,170. The upper 
surface of the water swarmed with these animalculae, and 
could easily have been taken with fine nets in literal 
thousands. A very low estimate was assumed from these 
facts, namely, that allowing each of the 240,000 herrings to 
have devoured daily 10,000 Copepoda, this would give for 
one day a consumption of 2400 millions, and in three 
weeks 43,000 millions. 

The roe of an ordinary sized herring is allowed to con- 
tain about 33,000 eggs, and the time taken for hatching 
the eggs depends both upon the season and the tempera- 
ture of the water. Hatching operations seldom take longer 
than one month, and the young fry are invariably produced 
from the eggs in three weeks' time. 

As with all our marine fish, temperature has a very 
important function in the growth and development of each 
species, and observation is showing a close relation between 
large or small catches and varying temperatures. Thus a ' 
low temperature is conducive to large catches, and a high 
temperature to small ones, and if the thermometer registers 
the sea temperature to be at or about 55*5, average catches 
may be expected, other things being equal. 

One of the most serious allegations against trawlers is, 



30 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

that they both disturb and destroy immense quantities of 
herring spawn, and a very recent instance was cited by the 
Cockenzie fishermen and laid for redress before the Lord 
Advocate at Edinburgh, urging him to draw attention to 
this and other grievances they have to suffer. This is a 
public question, and may be dealt with at some length. 
The allegation was that a trawler brought up an immense 
quantity of herring spawn, and that it was sold for 
" manure." This is an old story, for the same complaints 
were made against the English trawlers, and at a com- 
mission of inquiry appointed by Government, it was alleged 
by a South Shields fisherman that he had drawn up himself 
three and a half tons of fish-spawn, and further, that he 
has seen a ton and a half of herring spawn offered for 
manuring purposes. 

It is important to remember that up to the present date 
there is no diminution, but, as we think, rather an increase 
in the herring fishery ; for all that it behoves us, for the 
future interest of our sea wealth, to make the strictest 
inquiries from competent sources and legislate accordingly. 
More than fifty tons of herring have been taken at one 
haul, and, considering the constant drain at all times of the 
year by the varied enemies of the herring, there is reason 
enough to feel anxious about the future welfare of our 
herring fishery. 

The report of the Fishery Commissioners issued in 1879, 
estimates that 120,000,000,000 of herrings are annually 
destroyed by men, birds and fishes around the British 
coast, but that 1,200,000,000,000 eggs are deposited ,in the 
sea as a balance against this draught. 

It is a fact that fifty years ago large quantities of fine 
herring could be found as far up the Firth of Forth as 
Alloa, and the curing troughs still remain along the coast 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 31 

as a sad evidence ; but it could not have been the trawlers 
who prevented herring ascending the Forth, seeing that 
they are a recent innovation on the east coast fishery for 
Scotland, and it is interesting to find that the Newhaven 
fishermen have launched a trawler for themselves, as of all, 
perhaps, they had most reason to complain. That the 
trawl will bring up herring spawn there can be no doubt, 
but, as a rule, it cannot do so, for herring prefer spawning 
among rocks or upon coarse ground, where the trawl 
cannot go without injuring itself. 

Again, trawlers assert that our flat fishes are the most 
voracious feeders upon herring spawn, and that, as they 
capture a large proportion of these fish, they are really 
conferring a benefit upon our fishermen by its use. 

A counter allegation was, that the use of circle trawls 
instead of ordinary beam-trawls in the sprat fishery enabled 
the fishers to capture young herring, and that the destruc- 
tion of these young fry was fatal to the white fish fisheries 
and conducive to a diminution of the herring themselves. 

A very important point comes out in connection with 
the Firth of Forth, and one which we have already alluded 
to, namely, that herring became scarce in this district 
before the introduction of trawlers. If it can be shown 
that there is no decrease on other parts of our coast where 
trawling operations are carried out, then the question is so 
far satisfactorily settled, and we think the statistics are on 
this side. But there are some very important reasons why 
specified limits as to the kind of trawl to be used, and the 
place or grounds to be fished over should be rigidly main- 
tained. The law at present seems to be a dead letter in 
many points, and this is chiefly owing to a felt want for 
marine police. It is a frequent occurrence for trawlers to 
run right through the nets, and it is at any time dangerous 



32 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

for them to be in the vicinity of open boats using either 
nets or lines. 

Trawling cannot be abolished without an international 
convention, nor is it generally desired that it should be 
even without this ; but that some effective measures which 
will meet all cases is requisite, and urgently demanded, the 
baneful system of coopering alone will show. A cooper is 
a floating public-house, under the colour of a fishing smack. 
The worst is that these bumboats sell or barter poisoned 
drink in return for fish ; and cruel evidence has been 
proved against this villainous traffic, where in many cases 
not only do they take all the money first, but have as often 
succeeded in securing fish, nets, gearage, and even the 
boats too, in return for a maddening drink that has made 
some victims leap overboard through its effects. Evidence 
of a worse nature than this was brought against foreign 
fishermen, chiefly Belgian and Dutch trawlers, to the effect 
that not only were the nets purposely run through, but the 
warp was cut in a deliberate manner by an instrument 
called the " devil." This instrument resembles the end of 
a huge scythe, and when fixed at the stern of the ship it 
can be used with terrible effects to the helpless fishermen. 

International protection is both needed and asked for as 
a guarantee against these nefarious proceedings, for the 
regulations at present existing only apply to territorial 
waters, and the application of the law is the fault at issue. 
Even where ordinary grievances prevail fishermen can raise 
an action for damages, but as a rule they have neither 
opportunity nor means to do so. Some useful remedies 
have been often suggested, such as empowering our coast- 
guardsmen at their respective stations to act on the com- 
plaint of a fishing crew, or to have at least four swift 
cruisers in the German Ocean, representing England, France, 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 33 

Belgium, and Holland. Also, with a proposal to adopt 
fish culture in some of our favourite estuaries and firths, 
that trawling be entirely abolished from such districts, &c. 

It is now five hundred years since a petition was pre- 
sented to the English Parliament against the use of a 
machine which not only retained all kinds of fish, both 
small and great, in the meshes of its net, but also by its 
iron supports destroyed fish, spawn, &c., "to the great 
damage of the whole commons of the kingdom." Trawling, 
then, has not yet reduced the fish supply, and it only now 
remains to guard against this. 

Much of the so-called herring spawn has been proved to 
be gelatinous bodies of marine zoophytes and ascidians, 
or the spawn of cuttle-fishes, but, as we stated, herring eggs 
have been brought up by the trawl. 

The old legal mesh for the herring net was I inch 
square from knot to knot, but since 1868 fishermen have 
been allowed to use any size of mesh they please. It is 
desirable that the old law of 1809 be re-enacted, because a 
small mesh will catch small, and therefore young, herrings ; 
at the same time it can only choke large herrings without 
catching them. There are very many points which require 
overhauling in the interests of the fishermen alone. And 
there are some which require redress in the interests of the 
public. For instance, boat owners and others " sailing by 
the share " must proceed in the first instance to a custom- 
house, and sign their respective contracts before the officials. 
The charges for taking depositions as to damage or loss at 
sea should be from some other source than the sufferers 
themselves. 

Great damage is done to nettage by lost anchors ripping 
them open, and these hidden snares are unintentionally 
encouraged by the Board of Trade, for heavy penalties 



34 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

bind the salvors to deliver "swiped anchors" to the 
Receiver of Wreck. Now, as very few owners return to 
look for lost anchors, and the amount given by the Board 
of Trade for salvage is extremely small, it follows that 
very few take the trouble to clear the grounds, notwith- 
standing the general loss continually accruing. 

Again, if statistics are to be taken at all, they should be 
dealt with generally all round the coast, either in the order 
of the fisheries themselves, or commencing in the north 
and ending in the south, or where practicable. Statistics 
for the east coast of England are always awanting, and 
when given very unreliable as a total estimate to the 
growing importance of the English coast fishery. 

The spring herring fishery at Lowestoft is a recent 
addition to this industry, but usually the largest deliveries 
of the season are landed at Yarmouth. It is asserted that 
in 1853 upwards of 10,000 lasts of herrings were cured at 
Great Yarmouth. And it is within the estimate to allow 
the yearly average to be 15,000 lasts delivered at Great 
Yarmouth alone for the past thirty years. One authority 
assumes the grand total for the past thirteen years to be at 
least not less than 2,772,000,000 herrings, or 210,000 lasts. 

Before noticing the leading fishery and particular features 
connected with it, a novel and very pleasant pastime is 
offered to anglers through the open facilities in catching 
herrings. A few enterprising individuals have even sup- 
plied the markets by angling operations over the side of a 
boat, and others have taken them from the shore itself. 
The reason why this mode of fishing is not more general 
than it deserves to be, is the erroneous ideas existing about 
the fishing apparatus and habits of the herring. Herrings 
are a surface-swimming fish, and the great point to suc- 
cessful angling is the smallness and brightness of the hooks 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 35 

used, as the herring possesses a very small mouth. In the 
north of Scotland some anglers fix the hooks from the end 
of ordinary stocking wires, and these wires are about twelve 
inches distant from each other on the line. No bait is 
required, but the hook must be small and bright. 



PART III. 
THE LEADING HERRING FISHERY OF THE WORLD. 

As the herring fisheries of Scotland are the leading 
fisheries in the world, we may infer from this fact alone 
that there must be gigantic modes of carrying on the 
business in the mighty waters. 

The curers are the real promoters of this industry ; in 
some cases they even provide the boats and gearage ; but 
arrangements are made long before the season begins, 
notwithstanding the fact that the fishery is to a large 
extent uncontrollable by regulations. Thus, though boat- 
owners may bind themselves to deliver a certain number of 
crans at a given time in the season, it is after all a proba- 
bility that these very men may have the " cleanest " boats 
for that season. 

The " bounty system " is a mode of advancing money, 
and as often a question of retaining it, and cannot be 
compared to the "share" principle, where the fishermen 
have a better compensation for their arduous work. Boat- 
owners try to strike as good terms as possible, and by 
stating an agreement entered into last January (1883) for 
the ensuing season, we may illustrate this. 

E. 21. E 



36 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

Herring Fishing Engagements at Droughty Ferry, January, 
1883. 

Twenty-one boats, with the crews already made up, are 
arranged to fish as follows : Montrose district, ten boats ; 
Aberdeen district, nine boats : the other two to fish between 
or on the coast bounded by the Tay and Montrose. Terms, 
^"45 of bounty, ,1 per cran of fresh fish for a complement 
of 200 crans, and 1 5 s. per cran for salted herrings. Aries, 
money or perquisites in addition to each boat's crew, 2. 
In the case of the Montrose boats the herrings will only be 
considered fresh when landed at I A.M. In the case of the 
Aberdeen boats the herring will only be considered fresh 
when landed at " midnight." After these hours the prices 
allowed will be the same as is allowed for salted fish, &c.* 

The highest prices are paid for the early takes in every 
district ; and as it would be noticed, the men are bound 
down to a given time, even should their boats be so loaded 
that they cannot get in. 

Enormous quantities of early fresh fish are trucked 
immediately to English markets, or partially cured and 
shipped to German ports, till at length the curing yards 
become a scene of life and activity that can only be com- 
pared to the herrings themselves in their onward progress 
beneath the waves. 

The largest quantity exported from any Scotch port as 
a cargo was that of last season (1882) by the ss. Silesia, 
from Peterhead, with 3075 barrels of cured herrings, and 
at present Peterhead and Fraserburgh are the leading 
centres of the east coast for Scotland, just as Great Yar- 
mouth and Lowestoft are in England. 

For Fraserburgh the season's cure of 1882 is very close 

* It may be stated that the bounty is better this year by about ^10 
than on any previous occasion. 



THE HERRING FISHERIES 



37 



on the numbers of 1881, but both the vessels employed 
and the exportations show an increase, thus 1881, vessels 
employed, 158 ; 1882, vessels employed, 173. Or to tabu- 
late it in fuller form, thus : 



Fraserburgh. 




Fraserburgh. 




Season 1882. 




Season 1881. 




Vessels employed for con- 
veying cured herring to 
continental ports 
Total number .... 
Barrels exported . 


173 
160,678 


Vessels employed in 1881- 
Total number .... 
Barrels exported . 


158 
145.494 


Tulv 


Barrels. 
28 QI4.i 


Tulv 


Barrels. 
2Q Sdli 




63 "i74.i 






September .... 
October 


47.321 
2O 131 


September .... 
October . . 


40,053 
22 8OO 


November .... 
December .... 


*7?6i 


November .... 
December .... 
January 


12,496 
620J 








*82 










Totals . . 


160,677^ 


Totals . . 


145,494 



The second section of tables gives a comparative view of the Monthly 
Shipments under their respective dates to various continental ports. 

The curing process begins at once, and for this purpose 
all hands are ready to begin work. The herrings are 
counted out by the cran to the curer ; the cran is a measure 
holding forty-five gallons. The "gutters" or eviscerators 
immediately commence to open and clear away the in- 
testines. These persons are usually women, who work in 
gangs of five or eight at a time. The fish are carried to 
the "rousing troughs," where, as the name implies, they 
are roused in salt, and so expert are the women at cleaning, 
salting, and packing, that they will produce a barrel to the 
cooper in ten minutes with ease. 

When large takes of herrings come in it is necessary to 



38 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

have many hands at work, for, unless the herrings be in 
pickle the same day of. arrival, the officer will not brand 
them, or at least is supposed to see that this requirement 
is fulfilled. 

This brand question has been a bone of contention and 
source of controversy for many years, and it is unfortu- 
nately branded itself by many fishermen and large curing- 
firms as a useless and misleading system, and the question 
has now come to be whether it should be retained or 
dispensed with. The old Scotch Fishery Board was esta- 
blished in 1808, but it seems probable that this vexed 
question may be successfully handled by the re-arrange- 
ments of the Fishery Board of 1882. As the case stands, 
the duties of the Board are the branding of the herrings 
according to quality, together with a collection of statistics 
as to the fishery itself. 

Many of the firms who stand upon the merits of their 
own productions have a strong case in point of various 
classes of cured fish, which at the same time would not be 
unimpaired by a British brand, and, to say the least, would 
look all the better. 

The Stettin Herring Report for last season, dated 
November, states that the supplies of Scotch herring 
brings the import up to "85,553 barrels crownfulls, against 
87,238 barrels in 1881 ; 48,751 barrels unbranded fulls 
against 32,377; 46,112 barrels crown matties against 
50,902 ; 42,213 barrels unbranded matties against 30,829; 
7802 barrels crown and unbranded mixed against 5921, 
and 12,482 barrels crown and unbranded spents against 
I 3 2 79; 3656 turnbellies in barrels against 2,919 246,559 
barrels in all, against 223,465 barrels in 1881. 

" This year's import is now considerably larger than the 
total of last year, and will be still increased by about 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 39 

10,000 barrels floating for our port ; but the stocks of 
Scotch herrings are not all large here, in fact, considerably 
smaller than last season, the consumption having been 
very satisfactory." 

The herring is known as fry or sil, matties, fulls or full- 
herring, and spents or shotten herring. 

The matties are the finest condition of the fish, when all 
the food goes to form the fattening properties of the fish. 
A full herring is a later stage with the milt or roe fully 
developed, which is not the case with matties ; and, as the 
name implies, a spent or shotten herring is one that has 
spawned. 

The herring is a very symmetrical fish, and its dis- 
tinguishing features are the head and the belly. Although 
there are no eyelids, yet the eyes are large and extremely 
beautiful. It possesses all the characteristics applying to 
such fish as were enjoined as edible food in the Scriptures. 
It has seven fins, and the number seven is the perfect 
number in Scripture, and these fins are respectively 
dorsal, I ; pectoral, 2 ; ventral, 2 ; anal, I ; and caudal, i. 

Strange markings may be seen beneath the delicate- 
scales, which are compared by fishermen to a herring-net ; 
indeed, some assert that the idea was conceived from this 
as to how a net should be constructed ; fancy might rather 
attribute this to the first herrings which escaped from the 
nets, and the impressions they received would be indented 
in their whole being, and handed down to future genera- 
tions. And when the mouth closes, so as to allow the 
cheeks to overlap the lower jaw, certain well-defined out- 
lines are seen on each side, which fishermen say resemble 
a fishing-boat with the mast in the very position it should 
be when the men are engaged in fishing operations. The 
air-bladder is joined both to the vent and stomach. The 



40 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

vertebral column has fifty-six bones. The ribs consist of 
twenty-one to each side. The head is furnished with 
twenty-eight bones, eight of which form supports to the 
gills. From end to end the entire skeleton numbers three 
hundred and seventy-one bones, and in this form it pre- 
sents a marvellous view of constructive skill and adaptation 
to its home in the great deep, and reflecting the mind at 
once to that supreme source from which order has sprung. 

The order of the fisheries just given will indicate the 
habitat of the herring, and it is never found in warm 
latitudes, though often found both in and without the 
Arctic circle. Small varieties are met with on the 
northern shores of Greenland, and it is scarcely necessary 
to state that the annual migration of herring shoals to and 
from polar regions is now known to be a fallacy. It is 
found in the North Atlantic Ocean between forty and 
seventy degrees of latitude, and abounds in the northern 
seas, and found in greatest numbers on the British coasts. 

The herring is not so prolific in the produce of spawn as 
many of the other species are, unless we take into account 
that it may spawn oftener than other fishes ; and this is a 
point that many able men are still investigating. It is 
estimated that if the full-roed herrings recorded as taken 
for the year 1881 had been allowed to spawn, and if that 
spawn had become fry, then " there would have been pro- 
duced no less than 6,946,470,000 barrels of herring," had 
such been caught. This assumption is very modest, and, 
of course, is going on the old lines that the said full-roed 
fish would only spawn once, though they spawn at least 
twice in the year ; and it seems certain that they spawn 
much oftener, as both " spent " and full herrings are caught 
in nearly any season and at any place. The fact really 
seems to be that, once they come to maturity, it is only a 



THE HERRING FISHERIES. 41 

question of regaining their strength after spawning as to 
when they shall spawn again ; and it is not improbable 
that the fecundity of the herring is much greater than it is 
commonly supposed. When accurate knowledge is esta- 
blished on such important points as these, then our 
dominion over the fish of the sea will have attained its 
highest degree, "for knowledge is power." There is also 
good reason for believing that what is generally called a 
white sea by fishermen is really produced by the innu- 
merable presence of herring spawn and herring fry, as such 
are actually found upon the surface of the waters in 
thousands, and many think, despite the fact that herring 
eggs are found at the bottom of the waters, that they are 
really produced and vivified at the surface. Indeed, some 
fishermen think that it is owing to the non-impregnation of 
milt and roe that eggs are found at the bottom at all, and 
that only those eggs float which have been so impregnated ; 
if so, this places the herring on the same footing with our 
other white fish in regard to its breeding points. 

The report of the Fishery Commissioners for 1878 states 
that 2,400,000,000 of herrings are annually caught in the 
North Sea by the British, French, Dutch, and Norwegian 
fishermen, and it is estimated that Scotland alone possesses 
no fewer than 14500 herring-boats, with a total for men 
and boys of about, or more than 50,000, and statistics show 
that these numbers are increasing every year as yet. 

Surface fishing is an improvement on the old method, 
and proves that the herring are nearer the surface of the 
water than was usually supposed. This method is con- 
ducted with great success, and consists in letting the back 
ropes be lowermost, so that the bottom of nettage may 
float towards the surface ; but this plan is open to great 
risk from passing vessels. 



42 THE HERRING FISHERIES. 

Experienced fishermen are usually able to shoot their 
"nets" at the right time and place, and they can even 
sight and fix the spot for operations at a distance, as the 
schools of herring will often throw an oily phosphorescent 
gleam along the surface of the water. There are other 
indications as to the presence of herring, and often enough 
the nets are shot at a venture. Some Norwegian fisher- 
men use water-glasses in their coast fisheries; this is a 
simple instrument that enables them to see a long way 
into the depths, and is probably only a practical aid at 
such places as the fjords or inshore fisheries. When the 
train of nets has been cast into the sea by being paid over 
the stern of the boat as " she " is rowed slowly from the 
starting-point, then a great perforated wall is left in an 
upright position on which the shoals will strike in their 
onward progress, and thus be taken prisoners. 

The beautiful tinted silver rays produced as the herrings 
are emptied into the boats baffles all description, but the 
curing-yards are now the only thoughts for the fishermen 
with their silver treasures, for this may be the last haul for 
the season, and, as we have been there already, we may 
now take leave of the " Herring Fisheries," and, as we say 
good-bye, we wonderingly inquire, if all the herring-nets 
in the world were joined together, where would they 
reach ? 

"WHO CAN TELL?" 



International Fisheries Exhibition, 

LONDON, 1883. 



THE 



HERRING FISHERY. 



BY 



R. HOGARTH. 



{PRIZE ESSAY.] 



LONDON: 
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 

13 CHARING CROSS, S.W. 
1884. 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 



IN the early history of our nation the North Britons were 
fonder of the chase, or an occasional raid by night on 
salmon with torch and spear, than looking after the treasures 
of the deep. 

Little is known of herring except that the Dutch visited 
our coasts annually for the purpose of fishing them, return- 
ing often with good harvests. It is difficult to understand Causes of the 
why Britain did not cultivate such an important industry, ^^5? 
allowing the Dutch to have it all to themselves, unless it 
was the many wars she was engaged in and the continual 
local feuds that kept her hands full, for it would appear that 
this branch of fishing was very little followed after till the 
middle of the seventeenth century, and even then it re- Unproductive 
mained for a long time unproductive, for many reasons, of cIntu!J. I7th 
which I will mention a few : first, the fishers were nearly all Reasons, 
small crofters, who, as they derived their subsistence chiefly 
from their crofts, did not require to prosecute the fishing to 
any extent. If they earned as much as would pay their 
rents and get a few necessaries that their land did not 
supply, they were content ; and as they lived a very frugal 
life, their wants were but few. 

Another reason was that their materials were not good. Materials 
The boats that were used for fishing did not suit the de 

B 2 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 



Boats (their 
build, &c.) 



Nets and their 
manufacture. 



Crew. 



The term 
"barrel." 



Opinions of 
writers re- 
garding 
migratory 
habits of 
herrings. 
These 
opinions 
contradicted. 



purpose well, being nearly half as broad as they were long, 
and open from bow to stern. There was no place of shelter 
in them, nor any way of cooking their food. Oars were 
always used, but the fishermen always carried a large 
blanket with them, which served both as a covering to keep 
them warm and a sail when the wind was fair. These 
boats were round-sterned from fourteen to sixteen feet 
keel and about seven feet beam. It was not possible to go 
any distance to look for herrings in boats of this description. 
They were known by the name of " nabbies." 

The nets were also very indifferent, being all home-made. 
The women spun the twine, and it was very coarse, twice as 
heavy as that used at the present time. The fishers them- 
selves made the nets. 

There were generally four men in each boat, and each 
boat carried a train or fleet of nets consisting of four barrels, 
one for each man, the name " barrel " arising from the habit 
of carrying their nets in barrels when going from one fishing 
station to another. The barrel or net was not made in one 
length ; it consisted of thirty " deepings," each deeping being 
twelve yards long and fifty meshes deep, the size of the 
mesh being rather more than an inch, or what we term 
thirty-four rows per yard. I will now proceed to make 
some general statements, confining myself to the west and 
north coasts of Scotland. 

The method of fishing is nearly alike as regards herrings 
on all the British coasts, except " trawling," which I refer to 
afterwards. Buffon and other writers were of opinion that 
the herring was migratory, that our coasts were wholly sup- 
plied from the Arctic regions, and that herrings visited our 
coasts in spring and left in early winter. The spawning 
banks off Ballantrae and others around our coasts have 
proved the fallacy of these opinions. In regard to these 



THE HERRING FISHERY. <; 

statements, I remember hearing an old legend told, how An old legend 
that herrings were only to be found on the east coast of 
Scotland ; so a silver herring was made and towed after a 
vessel or boat round Cape Wrath, and the whole shoal 
followed and filled all the west coast. 

I do not doubt that we get a supply of herrings from the Herrings from 
oceans around, but I think we depend chiefly on the herrings around. 
bred in our own waters. Men of experience seeing her- Distinctive 
rings in any of our markets can generally tell where 
- caught. 

Herrings fished at different places have their own peculiar places quoted, 
appearance, such as Loch Nevis, large ; Loch Hourn (6 or 8 
miles distant), small ; Scalpa, large ; Loch Broom, small ; 
Hebrides, all large ; Loch Fyne, generally large ; and Firth 
of Clyde, generally small. 

This grouping of herrings in different classes according The herring 
to size proves, I think, that each class of herring frequents migratory, 
its own particular locality. I may state that I noticed in a 
newspaper that one of our professors had examined 
herrings caught at the Hebrides, and found that they had 
one or two more joints in the backbone, and one or two 
more ribs in either side, than herrings caught near the 
mainland. This shows that there is a difference in the 
species. 

In the early history of the herring fishing there were Great quanti- 
sometimes great quantities caught, although the boats and occasionally 
nets were deficient. The fishermen waited till the herrings in 
went to the heads of the lochs in shallow water, where their 
capture was easy. Sometimes their nets were so full of 
herrings that their boats could not take more than half of 
them. But that involved no loss, as they could return 
when empty and haul the remainder. Nothing could go 
wrong with their nets, as they were generally trammelled in 



6 THE HERRING FISHERY.- 

Carries built, sheltered places. Carries were built in some places, that is, 
a round circle was built with stones to the height of about 
four feet At high water the tide overflowed the wall by 
some feet, and the herrings went in and got ebbed. 

At Loch Slaben in September 1867 one hundred crans 
were taken in one of these old carries that had been kept 
in repair. 

The beginning About the beginning of this century there were large 

of this century. 

fleets of vessels, of from 30 to 150 tons burden, fitted out 

from our ports on the Clyde bound for the lochs in the 
west and north highlands to buy and cure. Others of 
them fished their cargoes. The herrings were all sold by 
the cran a cran holding forty-five gallons. 
Price and The average prices at the fishing stations were from los. 

profits. 

to 15.?. per cran. 

Great profits were realized, as they were seldom sold in 
the market at less than 2 per barrel, and sometimes at a 
much higher figure. It was one of the staple trades of 

A town built Greenock, and Rothsay is said to have been built on 
on herring- 
bones, herring-bones. Ayr and other places contributed their 

Saltcoats. fl eets Saltcoats, a small sea-port, sent out twelve to 
twenty vessels every season. 

The varying The vessels that bought generally made a good many 

trade? 65 & runs m the season, if the fishing was good. Sometimes it 
proved a complete failure, and it was not an uncommon 
thing for a vessel to come home clean. I remember 
hearing of a vessel and her two fishing boats being away 

Government four months, and all for one barrel of herrings. Seasons 

encourage- 

ment. so poor caused heavy loss to all concerned, and the 

Government saw that a branch of our industries was not 

Board of improving. So they established a Board of Fishery, with 
powers to 'give grants to fishermen and to maintain law 
and order among them. One of the grants allowed was for 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 7 

the purpose of helping to repair broken boats. They Government 
offered a bounty for herrings fished a certain distance from en?e"f fish- 
shore. This deep-sea fishing, however, did not succeed, en 
as fishermen had not made any improvement on their 
materials. 

At that time there was a heavy duty on salt, but salt used 
for curing herrings was relieved from taxation by Govern- 
ment. They also stationed fishery officers at the different Fishery ' 
fishing districts along our coasts, to look after fishermen's appointed 
interests, and to settle any disputes among them, or between 
them and the buyers. They were there to see that no Their duties, 
measures were used except those that bore the Crown 
brand. 

If herrings were sold by the hundred, forty-one 
casts and a tally were given, making in all one hundred . 
and twenty-four herrings ; this was the rule on all our 
coasts except at Howth, where forty-two casts were given, 
being three herrings more. If there was anything too 
difficult for these officers to settle, they referred it to head- 
quarters. They were also experienced in curing, and had 
power to brand barrels, first having ascertained that they 
were well filled and properly cured. Curers who wanted Higher price 
the Crown brand had to pay a small fee for each barrel, crowi b^and. 
Crown brands always drew a better price in home and 
foreign markets than individual or company brands. The 
Government also appointed a revenue cutter under the Revenue 
Board to attend the fishing fleet Her duty was to see duties and 
that each boat was properly lettered and numbered. These Lettering and 

numbering of 

letters are the custom-house initials of the district to which boats, and the 

i-L u ._ U i advantages of 

the boat belongs. 

The letters and numbers have proved very useful if any 
damage is done, such as fouling of boats or destruction of 
nets ; the guilty parties can at once be found, if their official 



8 THE HERRING FISHERY, 

Cutter goes number is known, by applying to the cutter. At the out- 

ttefleetf side fishing stations she goes to sea every night along with 

the fishing fleet, not returning till the fleet is in harbour, 

and if any boat gets disabled she takes her in tow. 

Improvement The fishing gradually improved under the Fishery Board, 

Board. but it was not until about 1840 that a new epoch in the 

history of the herring fishing came about, when a Mr. 

Improved Paterson patented a machine for making nets. He opened 
nets. 

business at Musselburgh, and it was not long before he had a 

great many machines at work. The demand for these nets 
was very great, and has gone on steadily increasing. There 
are now a great number of these net factories over our 
land and our colonies, and other parts of the world are 
Difference supplied with these far-famed nets. The machine nets are 

between hand h f j th n th d b the hand and con _ 

and machine- J 

made nets. sequently fished better. Instead of two hundred meshes, as 

arge ' before, they were increased to three hundred meshes deep, 

and in two or three years the trains increased in some cases 

to twenty pieces, each piece a hundred yards long and 

Better boats, three hundred meshes deep. By this time there had been 

JSqSeT* 8 a S reat improvement on the boats. There was the 
" wherry," a good large-sized boat with a place for the crew 
to sleep in, but rather clumsy on the whole. The fisher- 
men began to see that these boats were, although better 
than their predecessors, still unsuitable, and that they 
required something faster and abler. So they applied to 

Superior boat Mr. Fife, boat-builder, Fairlie, father of the present Mr. 

from Fairlie. Fife> yac ht-builder there, who built a number of beautifully 
modelled fishing boats, some of them being 39 feet keel, 
12 feet beam, and from 6 to 7 feet depth of hold. A 
plan was also invented for lowering the mast when the nets 

lowering sail, were shot, allowing them to be hauled much more easily. 
These boats sailed very fast, and suited our waters well ; 



. THE HERRING FISHERY. 9 

but for the outside fishing nothing has yet been found to 

equal the Penzance and St. Ives luggers. I consider them Penzance and 

far superior to the east of Scotland luggers ; the fineness of bo'at. V 

their lines and the symmetry of their hulls make them 

more to resemble pleasure yachts than fishing boats. Some 

of our west of Scotland fishermen went to England and Adopted in 

Scotland. 

got boats of this class built to order, and their models were 

copied here for the mackerel and outside herring fishing. 

When fitted up with every appliance they cost nearly a Cost of these 

thousand pounds. Our fishermen say they are really 

good boats, being so buoyant that they can weather almost 

any storm. The Isle of Man fishers seem to have a like 

good opinion of them, as all the old crafts have given way 

to them. The nets in these large boats are nearly all hauled Nets in boats 

, . , . , . , . mentioned, 

by spring-backs, which are hove in by capstans or winches. g . 

Some of the largest boats indeed employ steam winches for ba <*s." 
this purpose. There is an improved winch, or, as fishermen 
call it, " iron man," which can be used without a spring-back, "I ron man." 
thus saving both labour and expense. The east coast fisher- 
men regard it as a great improvement. The boats used at Boats and 
both the out and inside fishing are in the best of order, and good order, 
whatever may be said to the contrary, the gear, sails, sleep- 
ing berths, cabins, &c., are all good. Speaking of boats and A suggestion, 
their furniture, I may state that it has often occurred to me 
that a part of the ballast carried on the outside of the boat 
would prove a protection against capsizing, and give more 
stowage for nets. That this would give extra speed is 
shown by the example of the yachts. Some people might 
object to this proposal on the ground that it would be 
unsuitable for dry harbours, but I cannot think that a few 
tons of iron bolted through the keel and through a good 
keelson would do any harm ; and where the boats were 
always kept afloat, more could be added. I mention iron as 



io THE HERRING FISHERY. 

being much less expensive than lead, and a casting of iron 
of the required mould could be made at any foundry. 
Steamboats Steamboats for fishing herrings have been tried, but on 

for fishing 

herring. account of the expense involved have hitherto been little 
better than failures. However, I think I am safe in saying 
that steam will yet become general in our herring fishery. 
When such improvements are being made in the depart- 
ments of steam and steam engines, it is difficult to say what 
may not be in the future. 

Steam fishing Steam fishing boats would be of great service at our 

boats of great .,,,,. 11-1 

service at outside fishing grounds, which are sometimes far from har- 

fishing. bours. The fleet sometimes goes as far as thirty or forty 

miles to sea, and then calm weather or headwinds are great 

drawbacks, especially with heavy hauls on board, as if they 

are not in time for that day's market the whole cargo is 

generally lost, and likewise the following night's fishing. I 

have seen, both at Stornoway and at Howth, as many as 

two nights' fishing lost in one week with calm weather. 

Towing at At Shields towing is becoming very common among the 

oniclds. 

fishing fleet ; a tug will engage to attend six fishing boats 
for a week for 30 5 for each boat thus showing that 
steam for herring fishing is much required ; and it is to be 
hoped that, seeing steam trawlers have been so successful 
in other fishings, it will not be long before steam will be 
employed in this fishing also. 

The year 1848 Returning, in the matter of nets, to the year 1848, I may 

nets. 

Cutch. fi rs t mention that cutch was for some previous years used 

Tanning of by fishermen in tanning nets, sails, &c. It is a great im- 

nets. 

provement on the old system of boiling oak or larch bark 
to draw the tanning qualities from them. I have seen days 
and nights occupied under the old system in doing an 
Advantages amount of work that with cutch can now be done in as 
many hours. The cutch has only to be melted in water 



THE HERRING FISHERY. n 

and poured on the nets in a large tub till they are well 
saturated. This process is repeated once a month while Method of 

tanning by 

the nets are new, afterwards the periods can be lengthened ; cutch. 
but if nets have not been properly cured they will rot in a 
very short time. 

Different substances, such as alum, oils, dyes, tar, have 
been tried for curing purposes, but nothing has yet been 
found to equal cutch. 

Small trawl-nets were in use before the year I have men- Trawl-nets for 
tioned, chiefly for fishing saithe. When these fish came close 
to the shore a few herrings were sometimes caught in this 
kind of trawl, but they were not looked after. About this 
time a fisherman belonging to Tarbet on Loch Fyne lost part 
of his drift-nets, so he made a large trawl of what remained. 

The first night he went out he secured a large haul of Trawling for 
herrings with this net, about four hundred maise (five commenced, 
hundred herrings being a maise). This was a turning 
point on the road to improvement in our herring fishing, 
proving in this case the truth of the old adage, " Necessity 
is the mother of invention." 

About this time a number of fishermen, the writer being The writer's 

experience in 
one, began to make trawl-nets. In the beginning of 1849 I 1849. 

had in one haul upwards of three hundred crans of very large 
herrings (about five hundred to the cran). We drew, how- 
ever, only a very small price for them, about ^s. a cran, as we 
did not know of any fresh market for them, and curers were 
afraid to buy, as they thought that trawled herrings would 
not cure. One buyer sent a few of them to England, and English 

market 

next y:ar lh^ result was that we had buyers from different opened, 
parts of England, including London ; prices rose to "js. and Its beneficial 
8s. per hundred, or from 35^. to 4Os. per cran, showing that 
there must have been a great demand for large herrings in 
England. 



i a THE HERRING FISHERY. 

Before this the buying was mostly in the hands of the 
curers. The greater part of the herrings fished on the 
coasts of Scotland were cured and sent to the market and 
sold as new salt herrings. Grocery shops and other places 
of retail sold them by the pound, like any other commodity. 
The opening up of the English market to us, and the prices 
realized there, alarmed the curers, who thought this new 
method of fishing would hurt their trade, and they raised 
the hue and cry which several interested parties were not 
Trawling con- slow to take up. They said that trawling would soon rob 

demned by' 

interested our waters of all the mother herrings, and that herring 
fishing would soon become a thing of the past. Among 
the malcontents were fishermen, if we can call them fisher- 
men men who earned their livelihood as such in the 
summer months and returned to their trades or farms in 
the winter. In the newspapers articles appeared against 
trawling, and monster petitions, very largely signed by con- 
sumers, were presented to Parliament against the practice. 
Trawling for- The consequence was that in 1860 an Act was passed 
ofpartiaLlTt! making trawling illegal on the west coast of Scotland, also 
closing the time for fishing herrings from the 1st of 
February to the ist of June. 

Effects of this Many fishermen and their families were brought to 
measure. 

poverty through this Act. The law was so strictly enforced 

that the fishermen were not allowed even to fish herrings 

for bait, and a substitute for this purpose could not be found. 

Government Her Majesty's Government at last became aware that some 

inquiry insti- 
tuted, error had been committed and appointed a Commission to 

Commission investigate. The Commission found that neither the 

appointed to 

investigate, quantity nor the quality had been produced since the 

Act repealed, passing of the Act already referred to ; it was repealed as 

soon as possible and all restrictions removed. After this 

herring fishing began to flourish. Cotton twine was also 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 13 

introduced for making nets, giving us a finer, cheaper, and 
more durable article than the hemp or flax nets that were 
formerly used. 

Trawling has now become a recognised method, and the Trawling now 

a recognised 

nets are enlarged to such an extent that, instead of being method, 
fifteen or eighteen score meshes deep, they are now from Trawl-nets, 
forty to fifty score meshes deep, and three hundred yards 
in length. 

Some of our fish merchants tried a small screw-steamer to Small screw- 
attend trawlers and run with their herrings to the market, employed 

by merchants. 

as heavy hauls were sometimes got early in the morning. 
This plan succeeded so well that we have now about a 
dozen screw-steamers in attendance. Tugs are sometimes 
chartered for the same purpose. These steamers are all 
capable of maintaining a high rate of speed, some of them 
reaching eleven or twelve knots an hour, so that when they 
get their cargo of herrings on board they very soon reach 
Glasgow, often before the market is open. If the herrings 
will suit the English market they are sent off per rail as 
soon as possible, and will arrive in England in good con- 
dition. When the steamers are on the fishing ground they The herrings 
follow the fleet, and the fisherman who gets a good haul from boS to 
shows a signal with a light which the buyer understands. steamer - 
A steamer is soon on the spot, and when the price is agreed 
on, the work of transferring the herrings from the boats to 
the steamer is soon accomplished. The herrings are sold 
by the basket to further their dispatch. 

It requires two boats for trawling, and each boat has a Two boats 
crew of four men. They generally put to sea in the after- 
noon to look for appearances. One man is always 
stationed at the bow to keep a look out, and the practised The " Jook- 
eye will at once detect the slightest appearance of U 
herrings. 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 



Methods of 
discovering 
the presence 
of herrings. 



Trawling. 



Steam 
launches a 
benefit. 



Drift-nets. 



Successes of 

drift-net 

fishing. 



Decrease at 
various places 
not to be 
attributed to 
over-fishing. 

Sudden move- 
ments of 
herrings. 



Recent im- 
provement on 
drift-net. 



There are different ways of discovering their where- 
abouts, sometimes by the presence of gulls, " gannets," 
porpoises, or the whale. But what is most depended on is 
what fishermen term " putting up." Bubbles are seen rising 
to the surface caused by the water passing through the gills 
of the herrings. The other appearances mentioned are 
often on small fry, but this of " putting up " seldom fails. 
When seen the net is run out in the form of a half circle 
and hauled near the shore, if possible. The two ends of 
the net are hauled into the boat, forcing the herring into 
the centre or bag, where they can be taken out with baskets. 
Heavy fishings are also got in the middle of our channels 
by making a circle with this net. I think that steam 
launches would be a benefit for trawling purposes, as the 
boats are too large to be easily managed with oars, and 
they could go a greater distance in calm weather to look 
for herrings. The take with drift-nets on the west of 
Scotland has been greatly on the increase for the last two 
or three seasons, while in Loch Hourn it has been unpre- 
cedented. 

Our east coasts both in England and Scotland have also 
done well, and good "takes" have been fished at the 
Orkneys. Some of the boats fished there two hundred 
crans in a few weeks. At Howth and Ardglass it has 
fallen off greatly, and no reason can be given for it. It 
cannot, however, I think, be attributed to over-fishing. In 
my own experience I have observed that herrings will 
frequent certain grounds for a number of years, then 
suddenly leave, to return again when not expected. 

An improvement has of recent years been made on the 
drift-net which I cannot explain better than by saying that 
the net is turned upside down. The strong rope is under- 
neath, and a small cord or rope is run along the upper edge 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 15 

well corked, so that the net can be kept on or near the 
surface. This plan will do well where herrings are fished 
in the tracks of steamers. Some of these, as well as 
sailing vessels, draw twenty-four feet water, so fishermen 
must have their nets fully that distance below the surface 
to allow them to pass ; so if the herrings are near the 
surface the greater part of the nets will be beneath them. 
When the small rope is uppermost, steamers or sailing 
vessels passing over the nets will only break the small rope, 
doing very little damage, as the strong rope will keep the 
whole fleet of nets together. By this means the herrings 

can be fished near the surface. This inverted net was first T 

Inverted net 

used on the east coast of Scotland, where it has now first used on 

east coast of 

become general. A few of the west coast fishermen have Scotland, 
adopted the plan with success. 

At Ballantrae a different kind of net is used when the Nets at 
herrings are on the banks spawning. These nets are called Ballantrae - 
' bottom nets," and are about eighty meshes deep. A rope "Bottom" 
is put on both edges ; the upper one is well corked, while on 
the one underneath stones are tied to keep the nets at the 
bottom, the stones being some distance apart. A large 
stone is attached to either end for moorings. I have seen 
these narrow strips of nets completely filled with herrings, 
and when this is the case it is with the greatest difficulty 
that the crew can get them hauled. 

It is to these banks that the greater part of the herrings Banks at 
on the west coast of Scotland resort to spawn, and I may 
add from the English Channel also, as great shoals are seen 
coming from the south. The herrings begin to gather 
there about the 1st of January, and by the middle of 
February the greater part of the body has arrived. They 
begin to spawn about the end of February, and are Spawning, 
generally spawned and away by the middle of March. 



i6 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 



Its import- 
ance. 



Fishing at 
spawning 
time. 



Herrings do not go in a body after spawning, but scatter, 

keeping near the surface to get food, and if it is mild 

weather they are in good condition by the middle of June. 

Ancient origin The Ballantrae fishing is of long standing some old papers 

ofBallantrae 

fishing. turned up not long ago showing that herrings were fished 

there as far back as the I5th century. But it is only of 
recent years that it has become of such importance. As 
many as five hundred boats from different parts are fishing 
there every season ; the majority are trawling, and the 
greater part doing well, as the prices are generally good 
much better than in the summer season. The most of 
these herrings are sent per rail to England. 

Some think that herrings should not be fished when near 
spawning, as it will affect our future fishing, and that they 
are not in a good condition for food. Regarding the last 
statement I would say that the prices realized for them show 
that they cannot be in a bad condition, and the idea that 
man may reduce the quantity of herrings in the sea is simply 
absurd. As many as 68,608 eggs have been counted in a 
single female, and if only a tithe of them would come to 
maturity our waters would get completely filled. 

All sorts or kinds of fish in our waters will eat herrings, 
and they constitute the chief food of the most of them. It 
is enormous the amount of herrings destroyed by other fish 
for food. I saw a fish caught about twenty Ibs. weight, 
and in its stomach were one hundred small herrings . about 
two inches in length. Now if a single fish will consume 
that quantity at one meal what must the total consumption 

Sea-fowl also be ? It is well known that sea-fowl also live almost entirely 

herrings. on herring, so that the herrings fished by man must be only 
a small fraction compared with what is destroyed otherwise. 

Abundance of I remember seeing in an old Edinburgh publication that on 
the 2Oth of August, 1796, the herrings were so plentiful 



Herrings the 
of ot; 



food 
fish. 



'other 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 17 

along the shores at Ayr that the people got a good supply 

by means of baskets. This is not at all 'wonderful, as three Abundance in 

, . - . . recent years. 

years ago we lifted a good many on board with baskets in 
deep water off Ballantrae. 

Writers differ widely in their opinions regarding the time Maturity of 

the herring. 

required to bring a herring to maturity most of them 
thinking that it takes years. Fishermen, too, I observe, are 
undecided on the point, but recent experiments in Rothesay Rothesay 

Aquarium. 

Aquarium will throw some light on the subject. Herrings Growth of the 
put in there a few inches long became full grown in less herrin S- 
than eighteen months, though they did not fill properly. It 
may be supposed that if in confinement herrings grow so 
quickly, maturity must be reached much earlier in the open 
sea, where proper food can be got. At Ballantrae, in 1 879, 1 
assisted Mr. Melville, who was fishery officer there at that Mr - Buck - 

land's investi- 

time, in procuring some herring spawn for the late Mr. gation. 
Frank Buckland, Her Majesty's Inspector of Salmon Fish- 
eries. He wished to ascertain the time taken by the herring 
to arrive at maturity. Most likely the spawn died before A failure, 
reaching Mr. Buckland, as his investigation was unsuccessful. 
The bottles employed were small, holding only two pints or Probable 

causes of the 

little more. These were filled three parts with water, and failure, 
pieces of seaweed, to which the spawn had adhered, were 
also put into the bottles, which were closed by covering their 
mouths with thick paper secured with gum, no air being 
admitted. The spawn would be at least two hours out of 
water before being placed in bottles. Had larger bottles 
been used, the spawn placed immediately in them and the 
cover perforated, the result might perhaps have been more 
satisfactory. It is very beautiful to see the spawn on a Beauty of 

spawn on 

broad leaf of seaweed. There is no crowding, each egg or seaweed, 
particle is placed in the nicest precision, and there is ample 
space to allow the egg to expand as the young herring is 
E. 20. C 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 



Growth of 
herrings. 



Two classes 
of herrings. 



Stomach. 



Weather- 
its effects. 



Early develop- forming. I have seen head and eyes distinctly developed 
five or six days after being spawned. 

If their growth could be ascertained as easily as that 
of the salmon, it would most likely be found that the 
herring, to arrive at maturity, takes months instead of 
years, as is generally supposed at present. 

It is universally thought that there are two classes 
of herrings, the " Gutpock," or herring that feeds, and the 
herring that derives its nourishment from water only. All 
herrings, however, must eat till they are full grown, and after 
spawning they eat till they become " prime," that is, when 
they become well filled with fat. If this fat was examined 
the stomach would be found in the centre of it, completely 
closed up. 

I believe that warm weather is beneficial for fishing, 
especially in summer, as heat is requisite for bringing to 
The food of life that small fry on which herrings feed. This fry is 
scarcely discernible, but when sailing over a quantity of it 
the water has a reddish appearance. It is generally near 
the surface, and if drift-nets are run out through this, good 
fishings are generally got if herrings are there in search of 
their food. 

In my own experience at different fishing grounds I have 
always found that the stomachs of prime herrings when 
examined were empty, and that their general food was that 
small animalculae which I have just referred to, and which, 
depending on the warmth of the season, is to be found in 
the end of April or the beginning of May. This animal- 
Summer life, culae or Crustacea comes into life with the increasing heat 
of the water, and dies when the cold comes, the quantity 
always being in proportion to the degree of heat. Another 
instance of this short summer life is to be found in the 
jelly-fish, which appears in the beginning of summer affords 



Personal 
experience. 

Food of 
herrings. 



Jelly-fish. 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 19 

food and shelter to the young whiting, and dies on the 

approach of winter. A warm summer must therefore, as I A warm 

said before, have a beneficial influence on the fishing, as it is beneficial. 

generally the end of summer when herrings become " prime." 

If, however, the herrings cannot get this food, which appears Other food. 

to be specially prepared for them, they will take shrimps or 

other small fish. It is in August that our lochs teem with Deep-water 

herrings, especially our deep-water lochs, and it is there 

that herrings get that fine flavour for which Loch Fyne 

herrings are so much famed. When fishing in Loch Fyne 

I have seen the nets lowered twenty, forty, and even fifty 

fathoms below the surface to get these fine herrings. In 

Loch Hourn and all other deep-water lochs along our 

coasts the herrings improve in quality very rapidly. About 

August herrings gather into large bodies, and if broken up Density of 

they immediately close again so as to protect themselves 

against their enemies. These shoals can only be attacked 

on the flanks, as when alarmed the body becomes so dense 

that the assailant is in danger of being choked by the 

multitudes. It is for such shoals that trawlers naturally The shoals 

J and the 
watch. If they are not seen in the daytime by the trawlers. 

appearances I have already described there are other ways 
of finding them at night. If it is a moonlight night 
fishermen watch eagerly for them rushing or " putting up " "Putting up.' 
on the surface of the water. 

But when the night is dark, a man is stationed on the A dark 
look-out, and by striking on the gunwale of the boat, the ' 
herrings can easily be seen moving by means of the 
phosphorus that is in the water. If herrings are plentiful Phosphorus, 
they will make such a flame that it will light up all around 
the boat when a heavy stroke is given on the gunwale. I 
saw a statement by one of our professors, to the effect that 
he had examined the head of a herring and that it con- 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 



tained no organ of hearing. If this be the case the other 
senses must be very acute, as at the slightest noise they 
will swim away, though it be a gun fired at a considerable 
distance. The same appearances are, of course, looked for 
by drift-net fishermen. 

It is in the evening that herrings generally " mesh," 
before the " fire," as the fishermen term it, comes into the 
water. The reason of this is that herrings notice the nets 
by the phosphorescent light and avoid them. If the fishing 
is light and the night long the fishers generally haul in 
their nets and look somewhere else for herrings, so that 
they may have another chance before the break of day. 
It is different altogether when there is moonlight, as then 
herrings often net all night. Hence the line in the old 
song, " The herring loves the merry moonlight." Drift- 
net fishermen have many enemies which prey on the 
herrings caught in their nets. During some seasons the 
" dog-fish " is very plentiful, and very destructive, doing 
great damage to the nets as well as abstracting the 
herrings. Porpoises too, in large numbers, frequent our 
waters, and, when they discover nets well-fished, the fisher- 
Nets attacked, men have but a poor chance, as the nets are cleaned by 
them faster than they can be hauled. There are many other 
enemies among the large fish which do a great amount 
of damage, but the most destructive of them all is the 
It visits our coasts in the 

beginning of summer and leaves at its close. Fishermen 
Destruction of greatly dread this monster, as it often carries away their 
among nets, nets when it gets entangled in them, or if the nets are left 
they are so badly torn that they seldom can be mended. 

In the be g innm g of this century the harpooning of the 
basking shark was common on our coasts, and it is said to 
have been very remunerative, as an immense quantity of 



Herring 
having no 
organ of 
hearing. 



Morning 
fishing. 



Fishers 
change their 
positions. 



Moonlight 
fishing. 



Enemies of 
fishers. 



Dog-fish. 



Porpoise. 



The basking basking shark o/ sunfish. 
shark. 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 21 

oil as obtained from its liver. I mention this because I Harpooning 

the "shark" 

think that not only would it be profitable to pursue this recommended 

fishing at the present day, but it might help to rid the 

waters of one of the drift-net fisherman's worst enemies. 

It may be the scarcity of the fish was the cause of this 

fishing being discontinued, but its reappearance in greater 

numbers during the past ten or twelve years might warrant 

fishermen in turning their attention to the subject. It 

would not be difficult to harpoon these fishes, as they will 

remain on the surface a long time, allowing a boat to come 

up quite close to them before going down. 

Having just returned from Ballantrae (March 20, 1883), 
I will add my experience of the year's fishing there. It Experience at 
was the general opinion of all fishermen that there were Year 1883. 
more herrings on the Ballantrae Banks than had been 
there during any previous season in their experience. The 
gales, however, in January and February were very much Gales in 
against the fishing ; it was but seldom that boats could go ^^^ 
to sea, and when they did get out it was only with the Drift-nets only 
drift-net that boats did any good. I have explained before use ' 
that the trawl boats have to be pulled with oars while 
making a ring, and the drift-nets are run out in a straight 
line before the wind, consequently there were very few 
herrings landed, and prices ran as high as 5 per cran. p r ; ce 
The ist of March brought a change for the better, and improvement 
there were landed on one day seven thousand crans ; prices m u 
ranging from i$s. to 2os. per cran, mostly trawled. Some 
of our trawlers are engaged by an English firm to trawl Engagement 
during the first two months of summer on any part 
of the Irish coast from Innistrahull to Ardglass. They 
are to be attended by steamers to take the herrings to 
market. The trawl has never been used before in this 
district for herring fishing. 



22 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 



Shetland and 
the trawl. 



Source of 
wealth to 
England. 



" Catch 
greater. 



No danger of 
reduction of 
supply. 



Better 
methods in 
future. 



Curing. 



" Bloater," 
kipper," &c 



Railways. 



In conversation with some fishermen who had been . 
fishing among the Shetland Islands during last summer, I 
heard it stated that trawling, if adopted there, would be 
a success, as the herrings were close inshore. The only 
difficulty would lie in getting the trawl boats there, on 
account of the great distance. 

I need not say anything here of what a great source of 
wealth the herring fishery is to our country, as that is well 
known from the figures published regarding our exports, 
not to speak of the immense quantities consumed at home. 
It would not be possible to give a correct statement of 
what is used at home ; there are so many bye-ports and 
creeks where herrings are landed. 

It is acknowledged by all, including those who would put 
restrictions on engines used for fishing, that the " catch " of 
herrings is greatly on the increase. I have forty years' ex- 
perience, and I see no danger of reducing the quantity of 
herrings in our waters. All the improvements an our 
material have been a benefit both to fisher and consumer, 
and, judging the future by the past, we may expect greater 
improvements and better methods still in capturing the 
finny tribes. Restrictions on any industry are hurtful, but 
they are particularly so when applied to herring fishing. 

Before closing I may mention that the system of curing 
for the home market is now nearly supplanted by better 
methods of preparing herring for food. There is the 
" bloater " and the " kipper," and many other ways of making 
them more palatable than having them packed in barrels 
and covered with pickle. 

Our railways are also a great advantage to fishers, 
branches being laid to all the principal parts of the coast, 
and steamers run in connection with them to the islands, 
bringing as it were the remotest stations near, so that 



THE HERRING FISHERY. 23 

England can in a few hours get a fresh supply from the 
far North 

It is computed that in Scotland alone upwards of one Number of 
hundred thousand persons depend on the fishing for their dependent on 
support, and if England and Ireland were added thereto, 

the number would be immense. It is well known that our Benefit of 

, f , f ,~ , . fisheries for 

navy derives a great many of her seamen from our fishing ^ navy> 

population, and so does our merchant service, proving that 
Great Britain's fisheries are most beneficial to her, both 
directly and indirectly. 

Our Government has always taken a deep interest in the Government's 
fisheries of the country, and fishermen as a rule know this fishing, 
and appreciate it. They are a loyal race, and, if need be, Loyalty of 
they would, in the words of the poet : 

" Stand 
A wall of fire around our much-loved isle." 



LONDON: 
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 

STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS. 



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